Experts Discuss Apple Snail Threat

By Xerxes Wilson, Staff Writer, DailyComet.com, August 12, 2014

Gary LeFleur

A group of biologists, ecologists and government officials gathered at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux Tuesday to discuss the latest research into the harmful effects, distribution and treatment of the apple snail. Organizers hope the meeting will the first of many to brainstorm solutions and attract more attention to a problem they feel has the potential to significantly harm certain crops and fisheries, said Michael Massimi, invasive species coordinator of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.

Apple snails are fist-sized mollusks from South America, popular in the aquarium trade thanks to their large, beautiful shells. Dumped by disinterested owners into area bayous, the snails are now a common sight in local waterways. The most obvious sign of an apple snail infestation is their eggs, which are a bright bubble-gum pink and appear just above the waterline during warmer months.

Two years ago, one would have a difficult time finding apple snails or their bright pink clusters of eggs south of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Today, the invasive mollusk has spread west and south to where the saltiness of the water makes it uninhabitable, according to surveys conducted by students working under biologist Gary LeFleur Jr., an associate professor at Nicholls.

“As far as 2012, they had invaded parts of Bayou Black and Houma, but they had not gone south of the Intracoastal yet,” said Gavin Chauvin, biology graduate student. “Skip to 2014. We are having reports of them south of the waterway and going west to Amelia.”

Chauvin said surveys in the past two years found the mollusk had made it down Minors Canal into Lake Decade to the west. It had “completely overrun” Bayou Black and the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge west of Houma. To the east, surveys found it had spread along Bayou Little Caillou in the Company Canal over to Lake Long and Lake Fields. Apple snails have long been a common find around Schriever as well as the Bayou Boeuf area. They are not common in Bayou Lafourche, though there have been some sightings south of Raceland.

“Once you look at it, it seems easy to rationalize the distribution,” LeFleur said. “But on the other hand, you always hope that the expansion will not occur. You hope it may not happen. We kind of thought a bad winter would maybe stop them or maybe they try to colonize and their food is missing. But you see it expanding in a way you hope it would not.”

One primary concern is the mollusk’s migration westward. Biologists fear the snail could wreak havoc on the state’s submerged rice fields, which are primarily located to the west of the Atchafalaya River. That has happened in Asia, and at this point biologists said they are seeking solutions for a problem that could become serious under the right conditions.

“They tend to be kind of at a low level as they are establishing, and you get one really good year for the habitat and environment and then, bam, they really take off. I don’t think we have had that happen here. It might just be a matter of time,” said Jacoby Carter with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center.

Apple snails feed on aquatic plant life. Biologists fear a heavy infestation could flip the ecology of a local water body from one rich with plant life that supports a robust system of fish to a stale, turbid, algae-dominated system, Massimi said.

Those gathered noted the current state of research into solutions isn’t well developed because the problem is still relatively new. There is no clear consensus on effective treatment options that don’t also damage the local environment, and there isn’t a glut of money available for research, LeFleur said.

Many at the meeting speculated this would change if the public were more aware of the potential harm the snail presents.

“It is a snail. It is not hard to talk about tiger shrimp because everybody eats shrimp. So everyone is concerned that the tiger shrimp are going to eat shrimp. … It is not hard to sell salvinia and hyacinth because you see that,” said Rob Bourgeois, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “The problem is it is a snail. All they see is the pink eggs. They don’t see the snails.”

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Apple snail poses a serious threat to south European wetlands

European Food Safety Authority News, April 30, 2014

Dr. J. C. van Lenteren, Vice Chair of EFSA's Plant Protection Panel

Dr. J. C. van Lenteren, Vice Chair of EFSA’s Plant Protection Panel

The apple snail could have massive consequences for biodiversity if it establishes in the freshwater wetlands of southern Europe. The risk is high for species such as amphibians and for some already threatened species, as well as for the diversity of native species and habitats. A snail invasion could also jeopardize ecosystem services of the affected wetlands such as the supply of good quality freshwater and the regulation of pests and diseases. These are some of the conclusions of EFSA’s environmental risk assessment of apple snails from the genus Pomacea.

In 2010 apple snails invaded rice fields in the Ebro Delta in Spain. Until then, they were not present in the wild in the EU and were not regulated. The snail invasion is still spreading in the Ebro Delta despite the control and eradication measures in place in the rice paddies, and Pomacea is now considered a threat to the freshwater wetlands of southern Europe.

EFSA carried out the risk assessment using for the first time its Guidance on the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of Plant Pests, which focuses on possible risks to both biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Panel on Plant Health performed two assessments: one for the short term (five years) and one for the long term (30 years).

On biodiversity, the Panel’s main conclusions are:

  • For genetic diversity and native species diversity the risk is major both in the short and the long term.
  • For native habitats the risk is massive in the short term and major in the long term.
  • For threatened species and habitats of high conservation values the risk is massive in both the short and the long term.
  • The overall risk to biodiversity is massive in the short term and major in the long term.

For ecosystem services, the Panel concludes:

  • The risk for genetic resources, climate regulation, pest and disease regulation, and pollination  is moderate for the short and long term.
  • The risk for food is moderate in the short term and major in the long term.
  • For water and erosion regulation the risk is major in both the short and the long term.
  • The risk for freshwater is massive in both the short and long term.
  • For nutrient cycling and photosynthesis and primary production of macrophytes (see below) the risk is massive in the short term and major in the long term.
  • The overall risk to ecosystem services is major in both the short and long term.

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Are they in Alabama for good? Fist-sized Amazonian apple snails survive cold that should have killed them

By Ben Raines of the Weeks Bay Foundation in AL.comAL.com on January 21, 2014

Apple Snail by Ben Raines of the Weeks Bay Foundation

The invasive Amazonian apple snails have survived years of poison, trapping, and hand removal. Now, they’ve survived cold they are not supposed to be able to tolerate. Are they here to stay? (Ben Raines/Weeks Bay Foundation)

There was a lot of hope that the record cold that visited Alabama in early January might have turned the tide in the ongoing battle against the invasion of the Amazonian apple snails.

No such luck. Not only did the snails survive the record cold, but freshly laid, bubble gum pink egg masses were visible on the Stanton Road bridge pilings over Three Mile Creek in Mobile last week.

To be sure, there were plenty of dead snails floating in the creek and washed up along the shoreline.  But there were just as many live snails slowly sliding across the creek bed during a visit last week. Maybe it’s time to try dynamite.

Nothing else has worked on the wretchedly tough snails, which have colonized Mobile’s Three Mile Creek, and appear poised to migrate into the vast Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“That’s disappointing,” said Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries biologist Dave Armstrong upon hearing that the snails survived the chill. “They’re not supposed to be that cold tolerant. And they were moving around? I’d have expected them to be burrowed up in the mud or something.”

Armstrong has spearheaded the state’s effort to eradicate the snails. That effort has included applications of copper sulfate, which is toxic to snails but not fish, snail traps and hand collection of individual animals. Armstrong says that section of the creek, and the area behind the Mobile Infirmary, are both home to huge populations of the snails. This year, he said, the state will probably try a more intense application of copper sulfate. Grants for control efforts are supposed to last through the year, but Armstrong said the better course might be to make a big push this spring and try to kill as many as possible as quickly as possible. Three treatments are planned between May and October, the height of the season for the snails.

“We really haven’t been able to knock them back like we’d like to,” Armstrong said. In fact, there are more snails now than ever before, according to data from sentinel traps state officials tend in Langan Park and the tidal stretches of Three Mile Creek.

“Our staff will continue snail trapping through 2014 at 27 fixed sites in Langan Municipal Lake and tidal portions of Threemile Creek as a means to determine abundance,” Armstrong said. “Our 2013 data show that relative abundance in Langan Lake has increased to rates similar to that found during 2009.  Abundance data from tidal Threemile Creek is approximately 6.4 times higher than that found in Langan Lake.”

There are few success stories when it comes to extirpating the snails from an area once they are established. Populations now flourish in all the Gulf Coast states. Armstrong’s group was able to wipe out a population of the snails in a small subdivision lake in Baldwin County, but that was a much more controlled environment compared to Three Mile Creek.

It is believed the snails were probably released into the pond at Langan Park, which flows into Three Mile Creek, by an aquarium owner. For decades, it was legal to sell the snails as pets and local stores carried them. Many aquarium owners used the creatures to control algae in tropical tanks. But, the fist-sized adult snails quickly outgrow most tanks.

Seen underwater, the snail resembles a man with a handlebar mustache wearing a hat cocked at a jaunty angle. In photos, with their antennae peeking out past the edge of their mustardy brown shells, and small, beady eyes staring at you, one almost expects to hear them speak.

The snails are supposed to be delicious, so far as gastropods go. There are numerous recipes on the internet for apple snails, including several that involve sautéing them in butter with various herbs. The only caveat for anyone thinking of dining on the invaders, you must cook them thoroughly to avoid various parasites, including rat ringworm, the intestinal fluke, and the rat lungworm. (The thought of being colonized by something called a rat lungworm has been enough to curb my usually inquisitive nature when it comes to eating things I can catch.)

In wetland environments, the snails consume aquatic vegetation. In Louisiana, snail populations have wiped out all vegetation in some wetlands, leaving nothing but algae filled waters that no longer function as wildlife habitat. Adult snails lay about 2,000 eggs every two weeks, and the babies are able to reproduce within two months, meaning populations can swell quickly.

The great fear in Alabama is that the snails will spread to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, one of the nation’s largest wetland areas. While they have been seen as far downstream as the Conception Street bridge, there has not yet been a confirmed sighting of the snails in the Mobile River. It’s possible the salty waters of Mobile Bay, which penetrate up the Mobile River with the high tide, have kept the invaders at bay. But even that is not a sure thing.

Research conducted by Charlie Martin, a scientist who did his graduate work at the University of South Alabama, suggests the local population of snails is more salt-tolerant than populations in other states. In addition, Martin’s work suggested the vibrantly pink snail egg masses are not as susceptible to tidal inundation as other studies had shown. The conventional wisdom held that the egg masses were killed when inundated by tides. Martin’s work showed a good number of eggs survived despite repeated inundation.

Will the snails ever make it into the Delta? Only time will tell. But I wouldn’t bet against them.

Ben Raines is the executive director of the Weeks Bay Foundation, a non-profit land trust dedicated to preserving coastal Alabama. You can reach him at Ben@weeksbay.org, or via Facebook and Twitter @BenH.Raines

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Snail Kite Comeback?

Outdoors, News-Press.com, October 5, 2013

Snail_Kite Pantanal1

Photo credit: Pantanal1

One Florida’s most endangered birds is making a comeback in the most exotic of ways, feeding off an invasive critter that feeds mostly off an invasive plant.

Snail kite numbers have jumped statewide from 650 in 2007 to about 1,200 today. While that’s only a fraction of the 3,400 birds found here in 1999, the rebound rate has shocked the science world. The next breeding season starts in January, and scientists aren’t sure what to expect.

“We have a bird that was in dire straits that is now taking advantage of this proliferation of an exotic species that exploded,” said Wiley Kitchens, a biologist and bird expert who conducts research for the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Florida.

“We were looking at almost an eminent extinction,” Wiley continued. “That’s where we were about four years ago — really, really concerned.”

The subspecies found here exists only in South Florida and Cuba, although Kitchens and others believe the two populations do not interbreed. Snail kites in Florida are not only endangered, but the birds are also one of three indicator species used to gauge Everglades recovery and restoration. The species may lose that status, however, because the adaptation to the invasive snail means the snail kite may no longer be reflective of South Florida’s ecology.

The invasive island apple snail thrives on hydrilla, an invasive plant that’s capable of choking small freshwater systems and retention ponds. But as hydrilla and the invasive island apple snail has thrived and expanded their range, so has the snail kite. Hydrilla is an aquatic plant that was introduced to Florida in the 1950s through the aquarium industry. Twenty years later the plant, known for killing off other water plants and even altering water flow and possibly killing fish, had spread throughout the state and is now found as far north as Connecticut and west to California.

Island apple snails in Florida exploded in population after the active 2005 hurricane season, Kitchens said.

“The number of birds began to increase, and it turns out that snail is popping up all over Florida,” Kitchens said. “Wherever we see a breakout, the birds flock in. It’s a monumental turn-around ecologically. For the first time in a decade, we’ve seen the nesting back up to the levels when the population was around 3,400 birds.”

Zach Welch, snail kite coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said hydrilla and the island apple snails are found mostly in altered systems such as Harns Marsh, a 578-acre man-made filter system designed to retain and clean storm-water runoff.

“They do well in altered areas,” Welch said of the invasive apple snail, which is much larger than native species. “But it’s not good news for our snails. We haven’t fixed the problems.”

Snail kites have evolved in Florida along with native snails, which are in decline due to drainage projects and polluted water sources.

While some invasive species can displace, even eat native animals, the island apple snail, which is particularly hardy, hasn’t done a lot of damage, yet.

“So far we don’t see any negative impacts … It’s good because if we did have to eliminate them, we’d have no idea how to do it,” Welch said.

Kitchens said scientists aren’t sure how the invasive snail and the endangered kite will fare.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty there,” Kitchens said of the future of the snail kite and its relatively new food source. “And that uncertainty in compounded because the last thing ecologists want to promote is the expansion of an exotic species.”

http://www.news-press.com/article/20131106/ENT13/311060023/0/pbcs.dll/Invasive-food-source-has-snail-kite-population-soaring?odyssey=nav%7Chead

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Apple snails in high demand in Mekong Delta

Tuoitrenews, 11/04/2013

Vietnam

Nguyen Ngoc Hong, from the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang, says she hunts for apple snails in nearby paddy fields and canals whenever she has the time.

Local traders are willing to pay VND14,000 for a kilogram of snails with the shell removed, Hong says. Elsewhere in Bac Lieu, the pests have also become sought-after as traders even pay higher: VND19,000 per kilogram. After sourcing a huge amount of the snails, traders will sell them to facilities in Long My District.

The apple snail, or golden snail, a serious threat to rice production and the native ecosystem, has suddenly become sought-after in the Mekong Delta, with traders offering high payments to stockpile large amounts of the pests from local farmers.

Vo Nhu Y, deputy chairman of the local government of Ninh Quoi A, said it has been reported that the snails will be sold to China. “But the speculation remains unverified,” he added. Y said people in his commune have collected as many as 1 ton of snails to sell to traders every day.

Meanwhile, Le Hong Viet, deputy chief of the economic bureau of Long My District, said traders ship the products to facilities in Ho Chi Minh City instead of China. It is a common trick of foreign traders, especially Chinese, to create false demand for agricultural products by offering high buying prices and then to abruptly stop buying the product. Chinese traders used to hunt for weird products like apple snails, leeches, and dry litchi and cashew leaves.

The high wages offered for the snails have spurred some local farmers to raise them instead of hunting them from nature, thus causing severe damage to the local ecosystem and crops. There have been cases in which Vietnamese farmers raised leeches and apple snails or killed cashew and litchi trees with the sole purpose of selling the natural goods to Chinese traders. But officials in both Hau Giang and Bac Lieu confirmed that no such cases have been detected so far with the latest apple snail hunt. They also ordered relevant agencies to remind farmers that they are prohibited from raising the pests.

http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/14738/apple-snails-in-high-demand-in-mekong-delta

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Toxic snails pulled from Louisiana waterways

DSC_7262

Michele Mullen, WDSU, via WCSH 6, Portland, Maine

October 2, 2013

METAIRIE, Louisiana (WDSU) — Bright pink clusters that are being found in local waterways have many wondering whether they’re harmful.

“I’ve never seen this stuff before. I never knew what it was,” said Glenn Olivier, who wonders what the pink clusters are that have formed along a West Esplanade canal. “I thought they were some type of caterpillar or some type of eggs.”

Researchers said they are channeled apple snail eggs, which carry a toxin that can cause serious health                         issues. The species is native to Central and South America; however, they have made their way into local waterways.

“It’s been about one year, less than a year, that I’ve seen them and they’re getting worse,” Olivier said.

Dr. Martin O’Connell, Director of the Nekton Research Laboratory at the University of New Orlean’s Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, said it’s likely the snails were introduced to the area by being released from someone’s aquarium.

Video:

http://www.wcsh6.com/news/watercooler/article/258551/108/Toxic-snails-pulled-from-Louisiana-waterways

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Bringing Sam Ballard home at last after garden slug prank went horribly wrong

DANIELLE NICASTRI The Daily Telegraph Sydney, Australia, August 07, 2013

Sam Ballard by Simon Cocksedge

Sam Ballard and Friends (photo: Simon Cocksedge)

SAM Ballard’s mates have never let him down. They have been by his side ever since the now 24-year-old Turramurra man was left severely disabled after eating a common garden slug as a light-hearted prank at a friend’s place one day in 2010. The slug carried the eggs [sic] of a particularly nasty parasite, the rat lung worm, and he fell ill and was hospitalized.

As its name suggests, the rat lung worm is mainly found in rodents and can infect snails and slugs that come into contact with infected rat feces. While most people develop no symptoms, very rarely it causes an infection of the brain.

After initially improving, Sam lapsed into a coma and stayed there for 446 days. He was finally discharged from Royal North Shore Hospital’s intensive care unit last February and transferred to the Royal Rehabilitation Centre Sydney in Ryde.

His mates have stuck by him during that time, visiting him in hospital and at the rehabilitation centre, taking him to the beach, watching the footy on TV together and taking him to watch his former Barker College rugby team play.

Doctors have warned people of the danger of coming into contact with snails and slugs. A paper published recently in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases examined the deaths from rat lung worm of two Sydney girls aged 14 months and 10 months in 2011.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/bringing-sam-ballard-home-at-last-after-garden-slug-prank-went-horribly-wrong/story-fni0cx12-1226692396347

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Rare bird’s growth might be bad news

An invasive giant snail is a feast for the snail kite population, but it could hurt Florida’s sensitive Everglades

by Patricia Sagastume, Al Jazeera America, August 22, 2013

snail kite 2

The endangered Everglade snail kite has found a new source of food that could be changing the way researchers monitor Florida’s sensitive ecosystem. Photo by Dario Sanchez

MIAMI — Humberto Jimenez is looking for a special place in the marsh. Barely a mile from the Tamiami Trail, the 275-mile stretch of road famous for cutting off the historic southward flow of Florida’s River of Grass, he maneuvers his airboat around the tiny tree islands that punctuate the Miccosukee Reservation near Miami.

After 14 years as a non-native guide for the Tigertail Airboat Tour Co., he knows where to find rare animals in the protected wilderness bordering the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Circling in the sky, a raptor bird scans the water for its next meal. It’s an endangered Everglade snail kite, and it’s looking for a certain mollusk. That’s because the kites are picky eaters and eat only freshwater apple snails. Gliding over the marsh close to the surface, the bird plucks a snail in its talon. In early spring, Jimenez spotted more than a half-dozen of the extremely rare birds foraging for food.

“Now it’s real easy to find them. I’m seeing twice as many kites as before,” he said.

The imperiled snail kite’s resurgence in Florida’s vast Everglades region should spell good news, but wildlife biologists aren’t celebrating. Like the proverbial canary in the mine, this rare bird is an indicator species of appropriate water levels in the Everglades. When the levels rise too high, the birds’ food disappears. Too low, and drought conditions encourage the kites to abandon their nests. Like a Goldilocks of the Glades, they need the water levels to be just right, and what’s good for the kites is usually good for the Everglades and humans.

But a new, invasive giant mollusk could be the reason for the snail kites’ increasing numbers — and could be throwing off the way researchers track the health of the sensitive environment

While still below “historic or safe levels,” according to a U.S. Corps of Engineers study, the snail kite appears to be in much better shape than it was five years ago. As suburban sprawl, agriculture and industry uses expanded, the bird’s population dwindled to the point where there were no kites to be seen in their historic nesting grounds by 2000. Now the kite population is exploding — and it’s not because Everglades recovery projects are working.

“We’ve had more than 400 kite babies, so that’s great news,” said Paul Gray, a biologist for Audubon Florida. “What troubles us is that the kite comeback is almost all with these exotic snails.”

Throughout Florida’s marshes and canals are foreboding signs of a new species spreading uncontrollably. Pink-bubble-gum-colored sacs of tiny egg clusters cling to plant stalks that protrude above the marsh. They’re the eggs of the island apple snail, Pomacea maculata.

Several species of the South American snails were first observed in the late 1980s, but in the last two decades the mega-mollusk maculata out produced all the others and spread rapidly. It’s suspected that these baseball-sized creatures were unwanted aquarium pets released near the Miami and West Palm Beach canals. Now these meatier snails, which are about twice the size of the native apple snail, are ensconced in lakes and canals from northern Florida to as far south as Everglades National Park. At the same time as this new species is spreading, the native apple snail population is shrinking

The nomadic snail kites have recognized the heftier replacement and followed the food source.

There are scary clues about what these big mollusks can do in small marsh areas. The exotic snails decimated plant life near lakes and ponds near Tallahassee. This overconsumption of vegetation has not spread to the wetlands, or at least has not been noticed yet.

“So far we haven’t seen any of that (consumption) in the wetlands the kites use,” said Philip Darby, a biology professor at the University of West Florida (UWF). For 15 years, he has collected data for the UWF Apple Snail Project by sampling the conservation area between Tampa and Miami. He said the verdict is still out on why the native apple snail population dried up in the first place, but the mystery doesn’t stop there.

Mysterious impact

“We are not seeing a situation where the native snail was abundant and then, all of a sudden, it disappeared because the exotic showed up. None of that has happened,” said Darby. He admits the current intense focus on exotics has him worried.

“Maybe complacency is too strong a word, but there’s not intense concern about the kite because the exotic snail is providing enough food,” he said. “But the native snails are disappearing. They’re 10 times lower than they were in a lot of these areas.”

More research is needed to illuminate exactly what these invasive snails might do. Researchers worry whether nutrient-rich marshes with the presence of these exotic snails are in danger of being stripped of their aquatic vegetation, or what happens if the native snails, once the sole diet for the endangered raptors, completely disappear. Also, since it’s not known exactly how these non-native snails spread so quickly, there is the possibility they could surpass a sustainable level in the Everglades, and if that were to happen, what could it mean to wildlife?

A snail kite coordinating committee has been formed, and this fall the small community of snail experts will present its work on kites, snails and other related topics.

With the peak of the hurricane season around the corner, water managers have started regular releases of millions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee to keep water levels safe for humans and wildlife. Because the raptor bird is federally protected, the feds have a mandate to preserve places where its food source survives, namely the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. But these invasive snails, which can survive long periods of drought and flood situations, have upset the hydrology formula that wildlife and water managers have relied on.

“Last year, the National Academy of Sciences gave snail kite management an F (grade) because Lake Okeechobee and other water-conservation areas were wrecked,” said Gray. “Now we have a snail that doesn’t get wiped out in our human-amplified water events, so the snail kites aren’t a sensitive indicator as they used to be.”

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/8/22/mysterious-invasivesnailthrowingoffeverglades.html

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Invasion: Apple snails find a new hold

By JOHN DeSANTIS, Senior Staff Writer, Tri-Parish Times, Tuesday, August 20, 2013

James Loiselle, Tri-Parish Times

This grown apple snail was plucked out of Bayou Boeuf in northern Lafourche Parish  (photo by J. Loiselle, TPT)

Rolling thunder teased a distant storm’s approach, as Ralph Usea guided the Zam’s Swamp Tours pontoon boat through moss-canopied black-green waters, eyes on the lookout for alligators and turtles.

For Mr. Ralph, who has lived on Bayou Boeuf for all of his 77 years, the meandering brackish water body holds few secrets and fewer surprises. But on this Wednesday afternoon tour, as a group of engineering students from France spoke their native tongue and struggled to comprehend Mr. Ralph’s bayou French, there came a question he couldn’t answer.

They expressed keen curiosity about flecks of pink visible on the trunks and knees of the cypress trees lining the great swamp, like so many hunks of bubble gum left by an incomprehensible number of inconsiderate children.

“I don’t know what that is,” said Mr. Ralph. “We are seeing that for the first time here.”

Within a few days an answer was obtained. The pink, slimy clusters are the eggs of an invasive snail species naturalists say pose a huge threat to this bayou and other mostly fresh-water bodies.

Scientists said this is the first time eggs of the fist-sized apple snail have been documented in Lafourche Parish. Already seen in Terrebonne, the large, non-native invaders could pose a future threat to Louisiana’s rice crop, as well as other resources.

The apple snail was first spotted in Louisiana around 2007, said Kerry St. Pe of the Barartaria -Terrebonne Natural Estuary Program, and they represent a substantial menace.

“We first saw them in Plaqumines Parish,” St. Pe said. “Then last year they started appearing in Donner and Chacahoula.”

Scientists are trying to develop ways to kill the snails that won’t kill other bayou life. But the snails are multiplying faster than solutions will come.

“They are a group of freshwater aquatic snails, mostly from South America,” said Michael Massimi, BTNEP’s Invasive Species Coordinator. “They were transported to lots of different spots in Southeast Asia as a human food source, but escaped cultivation and wreaked havoc on the rice industry. They are a serious rice crop pest in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. They were introduced here for the aquarium trade. Walmart was selling them for a long time.”

In local waters – where there is no rice – the snails pose a threat to aquatic plants beneath the surface, which are hiding places for fish that sportsmen prize. Once denuded of that underwater cover, the affected water bodies will be less attractive places for finfish to live and breed, Massimi said.

The aquarium trade is no longer allowed to traffic in apple snails, Massimi said. But the threat is taking a big foothold.

“They eat vegetation and a lot of it,” Massimi said, noting that while loathed invasive plants like water hyacinths make perfectly good food for apple snails, they should not be considered as a tool for fighting that particular invasion.

“Using them for weed control would be horribly misguided,” Massimi said. “We are seeing a range expansion, with what appear to be multiple releases. The range includes Schriever from the borrow ditch at La. 20 and west toward Morgan City. There are confirmations of apple snails across the guide levee from the Terrebonne Basin to the Atchafalaya Basin.”

LSU AG Center scientists, Massimi said, are keenly aware of the problem, and are beginning contact with rice industry leaders in south-central Louisiana.

Areas that will likely not be affected are the extreme southern coastal communities, where the salt content of water is too high to accommodate the snails. However, a habitat like that along Bayou Boeuf, scientists agree, is perfect for the creatures.

The snails mate in the water, and the female snails crawl patiently – often with great difficulty – up the trunks of trees or along cypress knees. Once they have reached a height they deem suitable they discharge the pink egg sacs, each of which holds in excess of 200 eggs.

The sacks turn lighter, eventually almost white, as they mature, and the newly hatched snails drop into the water below. Some are lost to predation – many creatures that inhabit the swamps find any kind of snail to be a tasty treat – but as has become obvious in the waters of Bayou Boeuf, enough remain to make a sizable notice of appearance as new eggs are laid.

One problem with the snails, Massima said, is their ability to lay multiple egg clusters over periods of months.

“They have a very high survivorship,” Massima said.

People spotting the egg sacs should feel free to crush them if they wish, Massima said. It is not recommended that they or adult apple snails be transported from place to place, as that could result in increased spread of the range.

Appearing as they have in Cajun country, where culinary imagination has made a gourmet dish out of a creature as seemingly undeserving as the nutria, gives scientists some hope that commercial markets for the critters might reduce populations.

The snails are edible and can be used in a gumbo, Massima said. But they must be very thoroughly cooked because, being freshwater creatures, they can harbor parasites and bacteria harmful to humans.

The snails were a topic of discussion at the swamp tour Saturday, as guests watched a grown specimen make its way – quite rapidly – across an outdoor table top.

Zamariah Loupe, whose parents run the operation, said he has no fear when it comes to apple snails.

“I saw some of the eggs fall the other day,” the 17-year-old bayou boy said. “All the minnows went crazy, all of them eating the eggs. I’m hoping the minnows can get them all.”

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Australian man brain damaged after eating slug on a dare

A Sydney man has been left with severe, permanent brain damage after swallowing a garden slug on a dare.
The 21-year-old spent almost two years in hospital with a devastating case of eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, triggered by a roundworm harboured by the slug. The parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, also known as the rat lungworm, is endemic in South-East Asia but has recently spread down Australia’s east coat. Typically found in the pulmonary arteries of rats, the worm is passed onto slugs and snails when they feed on rat faeces. Neurologists reported the unusual — but not unprecedented — case in this week’s Medical Journal of Australia.

http://www.6minutes.com.au/news/latest-news/man-brain-damaged-after-eating-slug

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Apple snail imports to be banned in UK

Practical Fishkeeping  November 28, 2012

The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association was informed that their fight to keep buying in Apple snails from abroad legal has been lost. At the end of November 2012, it will be illegal for aquatic retailers, wholesalers, importers or hobbyists to bring in Apple snails, Pomacea spp. to the UK. The ban was proposed and then took affect after colonies of Apple snails were found in rice paddies around the Ebro River Delta in eastern Spain. The Ebro River is already filled with giant, non-native carp and Wels catfish so it would appear the discovery of another invasive species was a step too far. The move could cost the UK aquatic trade up to £300,000.

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Postcard from… Ebro Delta

Alasdair Fotheringham, The Independent, October 15, 2012

It sounds like a plot from a spoof horror film, but ever since a South American mollusk, the innocent-sounding apple snail, was accidentally released into the rice fields of the river Ebro Delta in 2009, for local farmers, the nightmare scenario of a plague of voraciously hungry snails has been sadly all too true.

Just three members of the Pomacea canaliculata species can, local media say, eat their way through an entire rice field in one day <<false>> – and there are an estimated five million of the intruders lurking round the cereal plantations scattered along the lower Ebro’s left bank.

And they are not easy to wipe out: the apple snail can grow up to 10cm long <<false>>, has no natural predators <<false>> and – contrary to what everybody thinks about snails and speed – has an exceptionally fast reproductive cycle. They can even swim <<crawl>> upstream.

For three years, farms on the right bank of the estuary of the Ebro, Spain’s largest river by discharge volume, have remained thankfully free of the implacable hordes of mollusks with the munchies. Until now, that is, when in the middle of the recent rice harvest, a slew of apple snails – somehow <<birds?>> – crossed over. Some 60 nests, each with an average of 300 eggs, have been discovered.

Pomacea canaliculata’s sudden, en masse, appearance on the Ebro’s right bank is blamed locally on human sabotage – in other words, somebody deliberately releasing them. But whoever was responsible for this ecological and agricultural disaster, despite police searching several cars, they have yet to get on their trail: those of the steadily multiplying apple snails, meanwhile, remain sadly all too evident.

<<I just had to comment on this sensational article!>>

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Rat Lungworm Confirmed in Giant African Land Snail Sample Collected in Miami-Dade County

~ This Finding Emphasizes the Need to Eradicate this Invasive Species ~

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Press Release, October 12, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, FL –Scientists with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Plant industry (FDACS/DPI) have confirmed rat lungworm parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, in samples of giant African land snails collected as part of the ongoing eradication program in Miami-Dade County. The snails have not been found outside Miami-Dade County.

“The confirmation that a small portion of the giant African land snails infesting Miami-Dade County contain rat lung worm is not surprising, however it is disturbing,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “This only emphasizes the urgency we feel to eradicate this destructive, dangerous invasive pest, and why this program is our highest priority,” Putnam added.

Rat lungworm parasite can be found in snails or their “slime” (mucus), and if ingested may cause a form of meningitis. To prevent infection with the rat lungworm parasite, the public is recommended to avoid handling the snails and instead, to call the Division of Plant Industry toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517 to report snail sightings. An inspector will be sent to collect the snails. If it is necessary to handle the snails, it is recommended that the public always wear gloves, thoroughly wash their hands after handling the snails, and avoid touching their hands to their mouths, noses or eyes after handling snails. In addition, it is recommended to carefully wash all produce that may have been in contact with snails before eating.

Patients with this type of meningitis usually recover without any specific treatment; however ill persons should always consult with their health care provider. No human illness due to rat lungworm has been reported in Miami-Dade County.

Since program inception, giant African land snail samples have been analyzed for rat lungworm at the FDACS/DPI laboratory in Gainesville, Florida. Sampling techniques include both DNA testing and morphological testing, which employs traditional identification through a microscope. A very small volume of the parasitic worms have been found in the positive samples indicating that the level of infection is very low.

State and federal agricultural agencies have been conducting an aggressive eradication program since the giant African land snail was identified in Miami-Dade County in September 2011. To date, more than 88,000 snails have been collected on 400 positive properties in 18 core areas of Miami-Dade County. The giant African land snail has not been found outside of Miami-Dade County.

“Keeping the public and our employees safe has been paramount to our eradication program efforts,” stated Commissioner Putnam. “With this latest finding, we are reminding our crews and the public to strictly follow the recommendations of the health care professionals when it comes to dealing with the giant African land snails,” said Commissioner Putnam.

<< Rat Lungworm spreading in the U.S. has profound implications.>>

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Mauritius’ gigantic water lily facing extinction

By Tang Danlu, Xinhua News Agency, September 24, 2012

PORT LOUIS, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) — The famous gigantic water lily of Mauritius is being eaten up by snails and facing extinction, according to an NGO. The water lily basin is one of the main attractions of Pamplemousses botanical garden, a must for tourists to visit the Indian Ocean island country.
The basins have been invaded by Golden Apple snails from South America, warned EPCO, an NGO for environmental conservation, warned in a statement obtained here on Monday. The NGO also urged the authorities to make an immediate action plan to control the snails and avoid irreversible consequences.
Pamplemousses is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the southern hemisphere. It dates back to the period when France colonized Mauritius centuries ago, when the island was referred to as a French island.

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Latest Range Map from USGS

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THIS EXPLAINS ALOT!

Scott Hardin, former Leader of the Exotic Species Coordination Section for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will join the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Washington, D.C., as a consultant beginning July 1, 2012.

“Scott Hardin’s extensive experience with exotic and invasive species is a tremendous asset to PIJAC,” said PIJAC president Mike Canning. “Mr. Hardin will work closely with the PIJAC legislative department in our continuous mission to ensure the rights of exotic and aquatic pet owners. Hailing from Florida, Mr. Hardin has instant credibility with other state regulators that could seek to limit the rights of people to responsibly own reptiles and other exotic pets.”

Most recently, Hardin was exotic species coordinator at the commission, coordinating prevention and control activities including regulation development, education and outreach, eradication and monitoring efforts. In that role, Hardin advocated for flexibility for state and local agencies battling invasive species and against blanket bans on species without proper risk analysis conducted at the state level.

For example, in March 2010, he testified to a U.S. House committee on Burmese pythons in South Florida: “The commission acknowledges the need for increased capacity to identify potentially invasive species prior to their importation or widespread trade,” he testified. “Risk analysis—assessing the likelihood of establishment of a non-native species and its consequences—should be implemented for species currently in or proposed for commercial trade. While some species are problematic at the national level, e.g., zebra mussels, other animals pose local or regional threats, and flexible legal and operational solutions are needed. We propose the concept of a federal-state partnership, where the states conduct risk analyses under the auspices of federal administration….,” he testified. “Species found likely to cause adverse ecological or economic impacts at the national level would be candidates for injurious wildlife listing under the Lacey Act and prohibited from importation or interstate shipment. Species with high risk of impact at the state or regional level would fall under state-based restrictions.”

As bureau chief, Hardin conducted freshwater fisheries management projects, including aquatic habitat restoration, aquatic plant management, urban fisheries programs, non-native fish laboratory and aquatic education, PIJAC reported.
“I’m looking forward to using my experience in dealing with exotic and invasive species to pursue PIJAC’s goals of promoting responsible pet ownership and environmental stewardship,” Hardin said. “Programs like Habitattitude and voluntary codes of conduct represent great opportunities to improve environmental awareness and maintain a healthy pet industry.”

Harding is also credited with developing Florida’s Exotic Pet Amnesty program to help prevent the release of non-native pets into the wild by re-homing them with qualified people. The program hosts adoption events for reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and invertebrates in which potential adopters are pre-approved and surrendered animals are inspected by veterinarians. The amnesty program dovetails with Hardin’s efforts, with the commission, to balance economic, pet owner and environmental interests. For example, working with the commission, the Florida legislature adopted “Reptiles of Concern” legislation that mandated licenses for owning certain reptiles, including five constrictor snakes, including the Burmese python, and the Nile monitor.

In his March 2010 testimony, Hardin credited those regulations with eliminating impulse purchases, and the subsequent release, of Burmese pythons by uninformed buyers.

“Many non-native species are already in widespread personal possession or are important in Florida’s wildlife trade,” he testified. “Accordingly, the commission has chosen to pursue a well regulated industry rather than contend with the difficult proposition of controlling underground traffic in popular species.

“As the commission has tightened the requirements to possess Burmese pythons and other reptiles of concern, we have proceeded in a measured way to ensure that we did not inadvertently create a class of value-less, and therefore disposable, animals,” his testimony continued. “In short, blanket prohibition of species in widespread possession may have unintended consequences and flexible regulatory approaches are needed.”

http://reptilechannel.com/reptile-news/2012/06/28/scott-hardin-joins-pijac-staff-as-consultant.aspx

Who is PIJAC?

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is a non-profit trade association, advocating for the pet industry. PIJAC represents the needs of the pet industry. We accomplish our mission through:

Monitoring local, state, federal, and international legislation and regulations.

Providing comments and testimony on industry positions.

Offering support or opposition in the best interest of the industry.

Empowering members with timely information and the tools necessary to respond to legislative issues.

Collaborating and forging strong networks among government agencies, industry groups, and non-governmental organizations.

http://www.pijac.org/

Shell Shocked – – Florida’s Response to the Invasion of Exotic Apple Snails << I was too kind! >>

http://snailbusters.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/shell-shocked-florida%e2%80%99s-response-to-the-invasion-of-exotic-apple-snails/

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Help Needed to Fight Apple Snail Invasion in Mobile
WKRG-TV, June 27, 2012

Mobile Baykeeper, the Marine Resources Division (DCNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are hosting an Apple Snails “Round-Up” removal event on Saturday, June 30th from 9 am-1 pm. Volunteers will meet at two sites in Mobile, Langan Municipal Park and McLean Park. The purpose of the event is to prevent the spread of the invasive species into the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. State agency representatives will be at both sites with control measures including trapping adult and juvenile snails and manual removal of apple snail eggs.

Since the discovery of the Apple Snails in Langan Park Pond, the snail has spread its range to Three Mile Creek. There is concern that the non-native Apple Snail will spread throughout the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and beyond, laying waste to most aquatic vegetation in its path. According to a report released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Apple Snails have been shown to have a tolerance for a wide range of habitat and are highly prolific –snails may start to reproduce at 2 months, laying clumps of 100-1200 pink eggs an average of 1.4 times a week during warmer months. (Denson, FLDEP).

Several eradication efforts have been made previously, but to no avail.

Volunteers with kayaks, canoes, or small boats are particularly needed, although volunteers on foot are welcome. Volunteers should dress to get muddy and/or wet. Old tennis shoes, long pants and long-sleeved lightweight clothing, boots or waders, work gloves, and a hat are recommended. Additionally, it is advisable to bring sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, extra dry clothes, a full water bottle and snacks. Maps, paint scrapers (for scraping egg masses), plant shears, plastic bags, and rubber gloves will be provided. Volunteers are also encouraged to bring along anything of their own that might be useful for scraping eggs off hard surfaces. More information can be found by visiting Mobile Baykeeper’s website or by calling 251-433-4229. Link to Original

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New Range Map for Pomacea insularum from the U.S. Geological Survey

http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2599

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Invasive snail creeps up in Colorado River

by Chris McDaniel, Yuma Sun, May 2, 2012

The apple snail, native to parts of South America, has invaded the Colorado River near Yuma. The shell of the snail is globular in shape and can grow to nearly 6 inches long.

The snail is not currently on the list of restricted live wildlife in Arizona. But, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, it could present a major risk to the native wetland ecosystems and agricultural community, potentially competing with native species for limited resources, introducing parasites, and having significant impacts on agricultural crops.

They also have the potential to alter freshwater habitats, significantly causing shifts in ecosystem state and function. So far, they haven’t caused a tremendous amount of damage in the Colorado River near Yuma.

“We see localized concentrations of them during some years,” said Russell Engel, Region IV fish program supervisor for Game and Fish. “However we have not seen consistent, widespread concentrations of them to this point and they have been around for several years. If they were going to become a major problem, I think we would have already seen that happen and it has not happened to this point.”

The concern with any introduced species is how they compete with native species for resources, Engel said.

“If an introduced species ends up in a favorable environment that doesn’t have natural controls such as predators or environmental conditions, they can severely out-compete and displace native species.”

Game and Fish is considering placing the apple snail on the Director’s Orders list, which helps address the monitoring and prevention of spread of aquatic invasive plants and wildlife in Arizona.

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Amazonian snails approaching Mobile-Tensaw Delta, may be here to stay

By Ben Raines, Press-Register April 15, 2012

Press-RegisterMOBILE, Alabama — The snails are winning.

The Amazonian apple snails first discovered in Mobile’s Langan Park in 2008 have steadily expanded their range downstream in Three Mile Creek, ever closer to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Biologists contacted by the newspaper said the snails may be here to stay, with a breeding population already too well established to eradicate.

A Press-Register survey this week found the snail’s distinctive pink egg masses in reeds surrounding the U.S. 43 bridge on Telegraph Road, less than a mile from the Mobile River, and as close to the Delta as they’ve been found.

“The farthest I’ve seen them was the trestle at the I-165 Bridge, so that’s a little farther down than normal,” said Dave Armstrong, a biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Obviously, they’ve migrated a little farther. That’s not good news.

Armstrong said the snails remain entrenched in the pond at Langan Park despite multiple applications of copper sulfate, which is lethal to snails but not fish and other aquatic creatures. The numbers in the pond are way down from the high point two years ago, he said, but the pond remains a breeding ground.

When wildlife officials realized that baseball-sized Amazonian snails had colonized the pond, their worst-case scenario involved the giant gastropods escaping into Three Mile Creek. Biologists fear the non-native snails because they have been shown to eat 95 percent of the aquatic vegetation in some natural systems, leaving behind murky, algae-filled water.

In the fall of 2009, dozens of snails could be seen clinging to rocks in the riffles below the pond’s dam at the edge of the park. Surveys of Three Mile Creek at the time revealed the snails had moved past several small dams and were especially thick in the area around Mobile Infirmary.

Since then, the snails have become more and more prevalent in the low, marshy area near the Conception Street Bridge. Armstrong said it was particularly concerning that the snails have now spread into the denser swamp area surrounding the lower reaches of the creek.

“It may be virtually impossible to get them out of there. I wouldn’t say it is totally impossible to get rid of them, but it is going to be a lot more work now that they’ve moved into that area,” Armstrong said, referring to the several miles’ worth of heavily vegetated shoreline in the lower section of the creek.

John Valentine, director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, echoed Armstrong’s assessment and said the snails may be following in the well-trod footsteps of numerous other invasive species that have permanently colonized the Delta, including Chinese tallow trees, camphor trees, nutria and the aquatic plant milfoil.

“That is the way it is with invasive species regrettably, whether its kudzu or fire ants or whatever. Very few invasive species can get a foothold in a new environment, but once they do and become established, they are here to stay,” Valentine said.

“With regard to the apple snail, the problem is they’ve gotten a foothold in Langan Park, where they’ve never been able to wipe them out. That pond serves as a reservoir that can always spread them downstream. You’ll never get them out of the stream unless you get them out of the park.”

State officials believe that a few of the Amazonian snails were likely dumped into the pond after they had grown too large for a home aquarium. Pet stores sold the snails for years, but that practice is now illegal.

Describing both the pond and Three Mile Creek as ecosystems that have been heavily degraded by man, Valentine said the only real hope of killing the snails would be the restoration of the creek to a more natural state.

The removal of multiple small dams in the creek, for instance, would allow the tide to push killing doses of salty water from Mobile Bay into the upper reaches of the creek.

“To some extent, the small snails can tolerate salt. But when salt gets up to the levels we have in the summer, they really struggle,” Valentine said. “If you restored the ecosystem of Three Mile Creek, with natural flushing and tidal exchange, it would bring salt into the system. It would also help restore oxygen to the water, allowing more predators into the creek. That’s really the only way I can see to solve this problem.”

He said the restoration of the creek would be a significant undertaking, but one that would have numerous benefits for the natural system and the city of Mobile.

Biologists plan to begin applying more of the copper sulfate treatments to the creek at the end of the month. While the snails have so far proved resistant to the treatments, biologists have few other options. One of the main responses of the snails when they sense the copper poison is to close up their shells and float to the water’s surface. Winds and current can then push the animals farther downstream, away from the poison, which settles to the bottom. Often, the animals are able to survive the copper treatment in this fashion.

Armstrong urged boaters to be on the lookout for the bright pink egg masses, which are the color of chewing gum and composed of dozens of small pink balls. Knocking the masses into the water kills them by drowning the eggs.

“They’re welcome to go after them. I certainly applaud anybody who wants to do that. They can scrape those eggs off to their hearts content. Anywhere from the lake to way down the creek,” Armstrong said.

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Spanish Apple Snail Setback

By John Dawes, Pet Product News International, March 28, 2012

Late summer and early autumn in 2011 saw great confusion regarding the importation of apple snails (Pomacea spp.) into Spain. First, the authorities led everyone to believe that all apple snail imports were banned. Later, they clarified the situation, saying that the ban extended to just two species: P. canaliculata and P. insularum.

Not surprisingly, many in the hobby were relieved to learn that the most popular apple snail in the trade, the spiketop apple snail (P. bridgesii), was exempt from the prohibition. The Spanish authorities took this decision in line with that adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which deemed that, unlike the two other species, P. bridgesii does not present a threat to crops.

Once news of this clarification broke, trade in P. bridgesii immediately resumed. However, little more than one month later, the Spanish authorities issued a Royal Decree (Nov. 14, but published on Dec. 12) regulating a long list and catalogue of Spain’s invasive alien species.

Inclusion in the catalogue carries with it: “generic prohibition with regard to the possession, transport and commercialisation of living or dead specimens… including external trade.” Apple snails have been included in the catalogue as Pomacea spp., and according to this interpretation, listing in the catalogue doesn’t allow for a distinction between the species. As a result, imports of all apple snails into Spain are now definitely banned…and with immediate effect.

This decision has, obviously, caused chaos and distress within the industry, especially as it follows the official clarification issued by the authorities allowing trade in P. bridgesii just weeks before the royal decree. Also distressing is the fact that the decree offers no grace period. Further, since, by implication, the ban also extends to intra-European movement of consignments into Spain, there’s now no legal way spiketop apple snails can be brought into the country.

The Spanish pet trade association, AEDPAC, has condemned the decision, which it feels is unjust, and has complained officially to the authorities. In the lead-up to the Royal Decree, AEDPAC had argued that P. bridgesii should not be included in the catalogue (for the reasons given above), but that it should be included in the listing instead. This listing includes species that could be deemed susceptible to become a threat, or with invasive potential. Such inclusion prohibits the liberation of such species into the natural environment, but not trade in such species.

As I write these lines, there’s no news as to whether or not the Spanish authorities will enter into dialogue with the AEDPAC to re-assess the situation. I will, of course, report any developments.

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Living Sanibel: Harns Marsh

Charles Sobczak , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander, March 14, 2012

Excerpt: Harns Marsh, a storm-water retention facility located at the headwaters of the Orange River in Lehigh Acres, Florida, is an unlikely destination for naturalists and birders.Scores of birds, snakes, snails, and small mammals are found here. Two species of particular interest are the snail kite (aka the Everglades kite) and the limpkin. Birders who might spend years trying to catch a glimpse of either of these species can cut their search short with a single visit to Harns Marsh. These hard-to-find birds are attracted by the tens of thousands of snails that live in the marsh, including both the native apple snail and the invasive island apple snail. The island apple snail (Pomacea insularum) is from South America and has, through accidental releases, invaded many of Florida’s freshwater marshes. These enormous snails, many as large as a small apple, litter the edge of the marsh. Snail kites and limpkins are adapting to dining on these foreigners, which have also become an important source of food for turtles, great blue herons, alligators, and other animals.

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How Much Hydrilla? The Kissimmee Chain Debate

By Del Milligan, THE LEDGER, Lakeland, Florida, March 11, 2012

Excerpt: Fishermen and duck hunters on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes have been in conflict with each other, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, for the past nine months — all over a submerged aquatic weed called hydrilla that is as common to most Florida lakes.

There is no disagreement that hydrilla has to be managed. But how it is managed creates passionate differences of opinion. Hydrilla, native to India and introduced to Florida in the late 1950s as an ornamental aquarium plant, took root in Lake Kissimmee in 1983 and spread throughout the chain.

Hydrilla can be excellent habitat for fish, waterfowl and marsh birds like the endangered Everglade snail kite. But unchecked, the non-native weed can rapidly overtake the entire surface of a lake, shade out native aquatic plants and lower dissolved oxygen.

The FWC held a series of public meetings in Kissimmee and Lake Wales from November 2010 to February 2012 to gauge opinions among residents, who the FWC refers to as stakeholders, before finalizing a one-year management plan. Meetings often turned contentious, with groups taking the FWC to task and arguing among themselves.

While groups have had their say, it is the federally protected Everglade snail kite that held more sway in the development of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes invasive plant management plan.

The FWC plan had to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid spraying hydrilla in kite nesting areas, which are marked by white, rectangular signs warning, “Stay Back, Endangered Snail Kite Nesting Area.”

There are an estimated 120 snail kites on Lake Tohopekaliga, where 90 percent of Florida’s successful nesting sites are now located, according to Zach Welch, FWC snail kite coordinator.

Hydrilla provides food for a non-native apple snail (Pomacea insularum), which first appeared on Lake Toho in 2005 and became the primary food source for snail kites, which came to Lake Toho in 2007. Kites, which are medium-sized hawks, swoop down to capture snails as they breathe and feed near the surface in hydrilla beds.

Welch said it may be the first time in the United States that an endangered species is surviving on an exotic snail that feeds on an exotic plant — hydrilla. Snail kite numbers have increased on Lake Toho the past two years since the FWC management plan took effect and reduced herbicide spraying.

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Invading, jumbo snails helping endangered Florida Everglades bird

By Andy Reid, SunSentinel.com, February 15, 2012

The endangered Everglades snail kite is making a surprising rebound, and an invading bird delicacy that’s the size of a baseball may get the credit.

Preliminary estimates show the Everglades snail kite population increasing by 200 heading into this year’s nesting system, according to Audubon of Florida. And that’s after last year’s drought dried up the endangered bird’s key feeding grounds rimming Lake Okeechobee.

The snail kite’s resurgence is at least partly thanks to South Florida’s influx of a larger, exotic version of the native apple snails that are the finicky bird’s primary food source, according to Audubon.

These larger snails reproduce year-round in quantities that dwarf their diminutive native counterparts.

A native apple snail, the size of a golf ball, produces about 30 to 50 eggs at a time during the spring. But the super-sized exotic version that can grow as big as a baseball produces 300 to 500 eggs at a time and keeps churning them out year round.

For environmentalists who usually advocate stopping the spread of species not native to Florida, the benefits of this fast-multiplying snail kite snack create quite the environmental conundrum.

“It’s baffling,” said Audubon scientist Paul Gray, who specializes in Lake Okeechobee environmental conditions. “Here’s my endangered species being saved by an exotic species.”

Gray estimates there are about 900 Everglades snail kites living in a territory that stretches from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

Heading into last year’s drought, populations of the medium-sized bird of prey plummeted from 3,000 a decade ago to about 700.

More trouble was expected last year when Lake Okeechobee dropped to its lowest level since 2008, drying out the marshes around the lake and killing off much of the native apple snail population.

Amid Lake Okeechobee’s decline last year, snail kites began abandoning their nests, leaving some of their young to die.

While the birds struggled on Lake Okeechobee, they had more success nesting along the Kissimmee River and the Kissimmee chain of lakes to the north.

Now the larger apple snails, originally from Argentina and Brazil, are providing a more steady food source.

The exotic snails called “island apple snails” are popular features of the aquarium trade. They end up in the wild when people dump them in canals or other waterways, said Mike Bodle, senior scientists for the South Florida Water Management District.

“They’ve almost overwhelmed Lake Okeechobee,” Bodle, who specializes in invasive species, said about the larger snails. “They lay (eggs) year round. … It’s providing this bigger food base.”

Welcoming a modest snail kite recovery doesn’t mean scientists are ready to completely shed concerns about the larger snails.

Young snail kites might end up wasting too much energy trying to get the larger snail out of its shell, which could be a long-term detriment, Bodle said.

Also, while the smaller, native apple snails eat algae off aquatic plants; the larger snails eat the plants as well, which could create long-term habitat concerns.”The jury is still out on what the final effects will be,” Gray said.

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Spain Bans Apple Snails, But Not Entirely

By John Dawes, Pet Product News International, Jan. 25, 2012

A few months ago, Spanish authorities issued a nationwide ban on the circulation, sale, breeding and ownership of apple snails. This decision was taken as a result of a plague of apple snails, centered mainly around the delta of the River Ebro, which is wreaking havoc on the region’s extensive rice fields. The aim of the measure was to prevent the spread of this invasive snail to other parts of the country.

Consequently, all apple snail imports from third countries were prohibited, and a strict rule was imposed requiring all aquatic plants from such countries to be examined and certified free of the snail. Other measures included the legal requirement for all rice-harvesting machinery used in the Ebro region to be certified as having been cleaned after use.

Not surprisingly, these drastic steps caused great concern within the Spanish ornamental aquatic sector, since one species of apple snail, the spiketop apple snail (Pomacea bridgesii) is regularly imported and sold throughout the country, and is known not to have either the voracious appetite or invasive potential of P. canaliculata, the South American or channeled apple snail. Indeed, P. bridgesii is deemed not to present any threat to macrophytes (aquatic plants that are large enough to be visible to the naked eye), including rice, which grows in flooded paddy fields.

It has now been clarified by the Spanish authorities that the prohibition extends to just two species: P. canaliculata and P. insularum. P. bridgesii is therefore exempt. However, this was definitely not the impression created when the prohibition was first announced by the Ministry of the Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino-MARM).

For the moment, the Spanish trade is breathing a little bit easier. But, is this the calm before a new storm? Other Member States of the European Union are also taking a look at controlling (or prohibiting?) importation and sale of apple snails.

It is hoped within the industry that no draconian steps are taken and due care is given to identifying the species before banning orders are issued.

Admittedly, accurate identification is not particularly easy for those who are not familiar with these snails. However, there is one feature that can be used to differentiate between P. canaliculata and the different color forms of P. bridgesii: the angle formed between the top edge of the largest whorl and the bottom of the next whorl. In P. canaliculata, this angle is acute, i.e., less than 90 degrees, while in P. bridgesii it is 90 degrees, i.e., a right angle (see accompanying photo of a couple of young P. bridgesii that shows this right angle clearly).

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Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

On January 18, an exhibit “Through the Camera’s Eye” opened with a reception at the Firehouse Center and Gallery in Bainbridge, Georgia, USA. This exhibit features the work of Jerry Miller and 16 of his students from the last several years. Lake Seminole is the location of Diane Stuart’s photograph: “Snail Trio” came about when her ten-year-old nephew was playing with the large and beautiful apple snails and had set some on the dock. Stuart arranged them to make the colors look nice and came up with a vivid photograph. <<We can surmise that P. insularum is well-established in Lake Seminole (36,500 ac), the source of Florida’s Apalachicola River. >>

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Exotic Snail Invasion Alarms Scientists in New Zealand

By Matt Bowen, Waikato Times, 12/10/2011

Dr. John Clayton with Golden Apple Snail from Pet Store (Chris Hillock/ Waikato Times)

Demand for exotic aquarium pets has allowed the alien ear pond snail to morph from conversation piece to an invasive species.

And many other creatures, some illegally imported, could be next.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research staff have discovered the ear pond snail breeding in natural lakes in the North Island.

Principal scientist John Clayton, based in Hamilton, said they first found the ear pond snail in the Bay of Plenty’s pristine Lake Rotomahana in March.

“Having not seen any ear pond snails two years earlier to finding them in every site we dived in, it is quite alarming,” he said.

“It’s a typical example of how an introduced pet or plant that’s used in aquariums or ponds can become established in the natural environment. All it takes is the first opportunity to escape or be released into a water body. If the conditions are right, they multiply, populations build up then lake outflows or various vectors can move them into other water bodies. “

Snails were potential carriers of disease and parasites but, as always, it was difficult to know what the long-term ramifications would be.

It’s a simple path from pet shop to waterway. Yesterday, Dr Clayton paid $30 for six exotic snails.

They’re placed in personal aquariums and, when their novelty wears off, it’s not uncommon for them to be tipped into waterways.

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Vietnam bans breeding of . . . edible snails

Asia-Pacific News, Dec 5, 2011, 5:48 GMT

Hanoi – Vietnam has outlawed [and will] enforce the ban on farming edible snails, as rising numbers are threatening the local ecosystem, authorities said Monday.

Increasing numbers of golden apple snails are threatening the environment. According to the Agriculture Ministry, the snails destroyed 11,500 hectares of rice this year, worth several million dollars.

The snails, Pomacea canaliculata, are indigenous to South America and were first introduced to Vietnam in 1988 as high-protein duck and fish food.

A ban on farming the snails was introduced in 1992 but had not been thoroughly enforced.

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Insufferable snails: Invasive Amazonian apple snail difficult to eradicate from Delta

By Ben Raines, Press-Register

December 03, 2011Press-Register

Three Mile Creek/ Raines/ Press-Registeer

MOBILE, Alabama — The snail bobbed at the surface of Three Mile Creek, a fist-sized biological time bomb drifting ever closer to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and ever closer to making biologists’ nightmares come true.

Dave Armstrong, with the state Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, let out a groan when told that an Amazonian snail was found floating about 100 yards downstream from the Conception Street bridge Wednesday afternoon, little more than a mile upstream from the edge of the Delta.

Since the South American snails were discovered in Alabama — first in the pond at Langan Park, then downstream in Three Mile Creek — the state’s prime directive has been to keep the creatures out of the Delta, one of the largest wetland areas in North America.

The snails have a voracious appetite for aquatic plants, and the Wednesday find was proof that the gastropods remain a threat despite an intense multi-year effort to eradicate them.

Snail traps were deployed throughout the summer in the Langan pond.

“I think they are still getting about one snail per day in each trap,” Armstrong said. “We’ve knocked them back pretty good in the park, but Three Mile Creek, there are some hotspots there.”

Armstrong said it appeared a small population discovered last year in a pond in a Baldwin County subdivision appears to have been entirely eradicated. The snails have also been discovered in a farm pond north of Mobile.

“We think it is the same old story, somebody dumping the snails out of an aquarium after they got too big,” Armstrong said.

The snails were imported into America for decades for the home aquarium trade. They have become established in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. In some places, they have consumed all aquatic vegetation in wetlands, leaving nothing behind but algae.

Armstrong said the population in Three Mile Creek has been tough to wipe out.

“We knocked them out in the lower stretch of Three Mile, but they are still fairly dense at the Highway 45 Bridge and up,” Armstrong said. That area, near the University of South Alabama’s Childrens’s and Women’s Hospital, is the snails’ stronghold, he said.

Armstrong said biologists are now concerned the creatures may be developing some resistance to the copper sulfate chemical used to treat the creek and Langan pond.

“We are now looking into switching to a different family of chemicals. If the snails build a tolerance to the same treatment over and over, we could end up shooting ourselves in the foot,” Armstrong said.

So far, there have been no reports of snails in the Delta. The state has conducted surveys of the Spanish River and Delvan Bay, both areas close to the Mobile River’s confluence with Three Mile Creek.

The snails can tolerate only low levels of saltwater, though research conducted by Charlie Martin at the University of South Alabama suggests the local population may be more resistant to salt than the apple snails seen in other states.

“It has been really salty this year, and we’re thankful for that. It may be keeping them out of the Delta,” Armstrong said.

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Plant health : EU steps up assistance to help fight dangerous organisms

By IEWY News, 11/17/2011

Brussels– The European Union earmarked today 19 million euros to co-finance programmes in seven Member States aiming to combat organisms harmful to plants and to prevent them from spreading further in the Union and thus from having sever consequences on the internal market. During a meeting of the Standing Committee on Plant Health (SCPH), the Member States endorsed two Commission proposals providing the co-financing (€15 and €4 million respectively) of actions already undertaken in the past or planned to be executed next year.

“The importance of plant health in our daily lives is often underestimated. Keeping in mind the potential catastrophic consequences for our citizens – like in Ireland in the 19th century, where the potato, then the basic food of the population, was almost totally destroyed by the invasion of the late blight fungus from Central America – it is crucial to tackle these problems at the earliest stage” Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli noted. “Taking into account the current budgetary constraints, assistance will be focused where it is most needed ” he added.

€1.1 million will be made available to Spain to control the island apple snail (Pomacea insularum),one of the largest freshwater snails, which attacks rice plots and can also have devastating effects on natural wetlands. The size of the potentially endangered rice area in the EU is 420.000 hectares. Up to now, there is only one known outbreak in the EU, in the Ebro Delta (Catalonia).

For more information please visit:
http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/organisms/index_en.htm

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Hawaii Concerned About Rat Lungworm

by Dan Flynn, Food Safety News, Nov 16, 2011

In paradise, they still have to worry about rat lungworm. Hawaii’s top experts on the debilitating infection gathered last week at the University of Hawaii-Hilo’s College of Pharmacy out of growing concern about rat lungworm. Earlier this year, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) had to issue a warning about rat lungworm– also known as angiostrongyliasis — over four cases on the Big Island. There were nine cases of rat lungworm in Hawaii last year, with most also being on the Big Island. Those might not seem like large numbers, but what happens to people who get this entirely preventable infection is very disturbing.

By eating the wrong raw snails or slugs, or possibility by touching their “slime trails,” you can find yourself suffering from nausea and abdominal pain that can quickly turn into urinary problems, coma, and even death. Even with the best, rapid treatment, full recovery is often not possible, says Dr. Jon Martell, medical director at Hilo Medical Center. Martell was one of the experts participating in the UH-Hilo panel. There is no “clear convincing studies to show effective treatment of rat lungworm,” he said. Treatment now include both anti-worm medicines and anti-inflammatory steroids. Rat lungworm infections were first identified on Oahu in 1958, according to Mariena Dixon, a DOH investigator who works in East Hawaii.

Rats eating snails or slugs ingest “third stage” worms or parasites that penetrate through the intestine to the bloodstream. The parasites then reach the central nervous system of the rat, reaching the “fifth stage” or young adulthood. They mature in the bloodstream and mate in the rat’s heart and pulmonary artery. The female parasite lays eggs that hatch into “first stage” worms that are expelled in the rat feces and then eaten by slugs or snails. According to UH snail researcher Rob Cowie, it is when people touch or eat raw snails or slugs or their “slime trails” that the threat to human health occurs.

Cowie says that is because the worms can get into the human circulation system, moving to the nervous system, and then the brain. That’s where the worms go to die, but by that time it may be too late for the infected person as well. The death of the worms appears to be what causes symptoms of rat lungworm infection, according to Cowie.

Slugs and snails can be clear and less than an inch long, making them hard to spot, but each one can carry thousands of worms. In its public health alert, DOH cautioned people to wash produce thoroughly, clean food preparation areas, and make sure children are not putting “foreign items” in their mouths.

“The parasite can be found in snails, slugs, and rats throughout the State of Hawaii and may also be found in freshwater varieties of prawns, and crabs,” the DOH warning said. “Eating contaminated uncooked or undercooked snails, slugs, and freshwater prawns may cause the infection which can lead to serious illness.”

Hawaiians were urged to keep their home gardens free of rodents, snails, and slugs and wash all fruits and vegetables before visually inspecting them to make sure they are free of slugs or snails.

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Experts discuss Rat Lungworm Disease at UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy

by Hawaii 24/7, November 12, 2011

A panel of experts spoke at UH-Hilo’s College of Pharmacy Wednesday (Nov 9) about Rat Lungworm disease. Rat Lungworm is a rare parasitic infection that can be potentially devastating when transferred to humans, leading to coma, agonizing pain and infections.

The disease, which resides in the pulmonary arteries of rats, is transferred to humans when roundworm larvae from infected snails or slugs is ingested.

Video:

http://www.hawaii247.com/2011/11/12/experts-discuss-rat-lungworm-disease-at-uh-hilo-college-of-pharmacy/

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Crop-ruining snails go from being pest to prize in Viet Nam

Tuoitrenews, November 7, 2011

Shelling Apple Snails

The golden apple snail, a crop pest that Vietnamese used to treat as a sworn enemy, has now become a prized creature in the Mekong Delta since Chinese traders are offering high prices for it. This is causing unease in the agriculture sector, with people fearing that local farmers would be tempted into illegally raising the dangerous snails, Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper reported.

In Hau Giang Province’s Long My and Vi Thuy Districts, farmers are busy looking for the snails since they have become a stable source of income in recent times. Not long ago some of the same farmers were spending good money on pesticides to destroy them. Reportedly, it used to cost them around VND600,000 to protect a hectare of rice field from the snails.

Vo Van Sau of Vi Thang Commune in Vi Thuy said traders had been buying golden apple snails without shells for VND14,000 a kilogram since early last month. “Almost every household in this commune hunts for the snails. Every five kilograms of snail with shells fetches a kilogram of meat and each household earns around VND100,000 daily.” Golden apple snails have traditionally been used to produce feed for fish and poultry. Last year a kilogram cost a mere VND6,000.

At a facility owned by Nguyen Ngoc Am in Long Phu Commune, Long My, 50 people are hired to shell and wash the snails before exporting to China. It has been busy in the last month, with Am buying around eight tons every day. “The snails are shipped to China and Taiwan for animal feed processing,” he said.

Nguyen Van Khoa, chairman of the commune people’s committee, said local authorities encouraged people to hunt for the golden apple snails since it helped destroy a pest while also fetching incomes for farmers. “But we are concerned that some farmers may opt to raise the snails for bigger profits,” headmitted. Dang Ngoc Giao, deputy director of the Hau Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the authorities must keep a close watch
on the mass buying of golden snails for export to China.

In An Giang and Dong Thap, though the hunt for the snail is not as feverish as in Hau Giang, agricultural authorities have warned farmers against raising the snails. A top official at the An Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers sold the snails mostly to local feed processors, not Chinese. But since the activity had been reported in neighboring areas, the province would persuade local farmers not to hunt for the snails, he said.

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Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, warns of apple snail infestation

FG_AUTHORS: WVUE Local News Headlines, November 1, 2011

Jefferson – Leaders in Jefferson Parish are warning of an infestation from the Apple Snail. Jefferson Parish recently received a call from a resident concerning the snails in the Oakwood Canal. The Jefferson Parish Department of Environmental Affairs, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are all aware of the presence of apple snails in Jefferson Parish.

The apple snail is a large, fist-sized aquatic snail from South America’s Amazon Basin, and its presence is often noted by the distinctive clusters of 200-600 tiny, bright pink eggs laid a few feet above the water surface. Apple snails have been popular in the aquarium trade, and their presence here is likely due to irresponsible aquarium releases.

According to Michael Massimi with the the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, “The snails are extremely hard to get rid of once they populate an area, and there’s really very little we can do to stop the invasion. It would take another long, cold winter or a strong drought to battle back the snails.”

Along with the ecological concerns related to it being an invasive species, apple snails, if consumed raw or half-cooked, can possibly transmit diseases, including a parasite called rat lungworm, to humans and other mammals. Apple snails are occasionally eaten in parts of Asia. In 2006, several people became infected with the lungworm parasite after dining on raw or half-cooked snails in Beijing restaurants. Thus, Jefferson Parish cautions residents, if the apple snails are eaten, they must be cooked thoroughly.

Jefferson Parish reminds residents that the canal system is designed primarily to efficiently carry storm water runoff to the major pumping stations. Although Jefferson Parish has a pro-active Storm Water Management Program aimed at controlling pollutants and maintaining good water quality, residents are discouraged from harvesting or consuming wildlife from the canals. Residents handling plants or animals, including the apple snail in canals, should always wear gloves or other protective equipment and wash their hands thoroughly after handling.

If you spot any of these apple snails, call Wildlife and Fisheries at 225-765-2800 with the location.

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Tom Bass Park piranha probably was a lone wolf

Posted by Shannon Tompkins, Chron.com, October 22, 2011

Shannon Tompkins/Chronicle

The surfacing of a piranha at the 20-plus-acre lake in TomBass Regional Park near Pearland, Texas underscores the growing problem of illegally released invasive species in Texas, and the threat they can pose to native ecosystems. Piranha, a carnivorous species native to South America, is among dozens of species of non-native fish Texas law prohibits being possessed or released.

Several non-native fish and other aquatic species – tilapia, armored catfish, grass carp, apple snails, zebra mussels – have already established reproducing populations in many Texas waters, causing considerable environmental and economic damage.

Fisheries managers are concerned that releases of other exotic species, often by aquarium hobbyists, will establish themselves and further damage Texas native fisheries.

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Invasive snails threaten area’s rice crop; pose danger if eaten

By Kun Chan, Mizzima News, Burma, 18 October 2011

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Snails are destroying rice crops around Chaungzon Township in Mon State, and the government must come to the aid of the area, according to an MP who will put forward a motion in the Mon State Assembly urging the government to come to the farmers’ rescue and also to warn people not to eat the snails, which are dangerous to health. Mon State MP Dr. Aung Naing Oo of the All Mon Region Democracy Party told Mizzima said that he had compiled a list of paddy fields destroyed by the snails and the results of lab test by the government.

Starting in late September, Aung Naing Oo along with Mon State Advocate-General Win Kyi, Township Administrative Chief Soe Myint and officials from the agricultural department held educational talks in the area, urging residents in affected villages not to eat the snails. Authorities in September sent the snails and snails’ eggs to the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department to test whether the snails could be eaten or not. Lab results found the snails host a parasitic worm and should not be eaten; the snails contain 42 per cent protein and 0.9 per cent of fat. Their eggs contain 21.7 per cent protein.

Because the snails have Angiostrongylus worms, they can cause a disease that can lower white blood cells, produce fatal brain swelling and cause nerve damage. The protein contained in the snails can also harm the digestive system, the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on October 13.

Since July, the snails have attacked fields in the Salween riverside villages of Kawmupon, Kalwi, Kanyaw, Boenak, Daungyak, Thakaw and Natmhaw. Some farmers tried to combat the snails by paying workers 3,000 kyat (about US$ 3.50) per 1.125 bushel. However, more than 100 acres of paddy fields were reportedly spoiled.

An assistant professor of botany at Rangoon University said in the weekly The Voice Journal on August 29 that the snail was the “Golden Apple Snail.” It is similar to regular Burmese farm snails and should not be eaten. According to farmers, the reddish snails are bigger than Burmese farm snails; the weight of a snail is about 0.4 kg and their eggs are a light pink.

Aung Naing Oo said, “There were snails in the paddy fields last year, too, but just a few. This year, the number of the snails increased three or four times over last year. If the number of snails increases four times next year, that will be a disaster for farmers, and they will starve.” Despite educating residents in Chaungzon Township to not eat the snails, there are many people eating, selling and buying the snails in Mawlamyaing, Aung Naing Oo said.

The golden apple snail, popularly known as “golden kuhol” [Pomacea canaliculata Lamarck], is one of the major pest problems in rice production. In 1989, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that yield losses owing to this pest ranged from 1% to 40% of the planted area in the Philippines, resulting in huge production loss.

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For three weeks Willow Mae Bryant fought for life

ByBrittany Stack, The Sunday Telegraph, October 16, 2011

The 10-month-old’s condition had doctors around the country scrambling to diagnose and treat her but not once did any of them suspect she had eaten a poisoned slug.

Willow’s family maintained a bedside vigil as specialists conducted invasive and painful procedures, then treated her for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, where the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system.

It wasn’t until the autopsy that her family learned she had contracted rat lungworm from an infected slug, most probably from crawling across its trail.

“That was hard to come to terms with,” mother Cate Bryant told The Sunday Telegraph from her Willoughby home. “I lost it at that point; I thought I’d killed my daughter. It was something that could have been avoided and not just some random virus that she just happened to be unlucky to get.”

The nightmare began on March 20 when Willow became lethargic and wouldn’t sleep. A week later she was in intensive care.

The family was told Willow would go downhill for two weeks, but that she would get better.

By mid-April her condition deteriorated. Tests ruled out cancer as she slipped into a coma. Her doctors were dumb-struck.

“Doctors told us there was nothing left of her, Willow’s whole brain stem was destroyed and she would be a vegetable for the rest of her
life.”

On Easter Sunday the family made the heart-breaking decision to switch off her life support.

“I remember just holding her and I was so at peace and I told her that mummy would be fine and she could go when she was ready.”

Ms Bryant, who is pregnant with her fourth child, wants to raise awareness about rat lungworm. “I don’t want to frighten people, as not every slug is infected, but … I think if I had known that there was a way Willow could have got sick from snails or slugs, I would have taken precautions so there were no slug trails.”

NSW Health said it was aware of two recent cases of rat lungworm in northern Sydney children.

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Man dared to eat slugs gets rat lungworm parasite

by George Mathis, Atlanta Journal Consistution on October 11, 2011

Danger lurks around every dare, a fact easily forgotten when young.

A 21-year-old Australian will likely be more cautious after accepting a dare to swallow garden slugs infested with rat lungworms and spending a month in intensive care.

The parasites, found in uncooked snails and contaminated water and even vegetables, invade the central nervous system and cause a form of meningitis, a serious condition that can lead to death or permanent brain damage. Hawaii had a spate of infections from veggies in 2009.

The unidentified Sydney man is expected to recover, and will surely start cooking his food, The Telegraph reports.

Monsters Inside Me, an Animal Planet TV show that will make you burn your passport, calls the rat lungworm “one of the most feared parasites on the
planet.”

The lifecycle of the rat lungworm is so gross it bears repeating. Adult worms live in the lungs of rats, who cough up and swallow the parasites’ eggs. Rat feces, which harbors lungworm eggs, is then eaten by snails or slugs. Once the larvae is in a human, the adult worms take up residence in the brain and begins burrowing around looking for a way to the lungs. They are trapped and die in the brain, but more larvae are on the way. Eventually, the brain swells to the point of death.

If that doesn’t make you boil your slugs, nothing will.

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Softball-size exotic snails quickly impacting Treasure
Coast environment

By Tyler Treadway, TCPalm.com

Updated Monday, October 3, 2011

Ken Gioeli, natural resources agent for the St. Lucie County Extension Service, holds a channeled apple snail. Courtesy: tcpalm.com

While Miami’s giant African land snails grab headlines for eating everything in sight, including houses, and possibly transmitting diseases to humans, the Treasure Coast has its own slimy-trailed slitherer to contend with: channeled apple snails [actually Island Apple Snails (Pomacea insularum)].

On Friday, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other state and federal officials toured areas in Coral Gables where giant African land snails, which can damage plaster and stucco on houses and often carry a parasitic worm that can lead to meningitis in humans, have been found despite a 10-year, $1 million slugfest to eradicate the pest.

The Treasure Coast’s channeled apple snails may not be as attention-grabbing as their cousins to the south because they live in water in rural areas, but they’re menacing mollusks nonetheless.

The non-native channeled apple snails, which can grow to the size of a softball, are causing serious problems for their much smaller (about the size of a quarter) native cousins, Florida apple snails; and that’s causing problems right up the food chain to the already-endangered snail kite.

The non-natives snails’ heavy feeding on aquatic plants also could impact populations of invertebrates that are eaten by small fish, which are in turn eaten by larger fish such as largemouth bass and crappie, said Ken Gioeli, natural resources agent for the St. Lucie County Extension Service.

Because they’re aquatic, channeled apple snails don’t have much contact with people — a good thing, Gioeli said, “because they can carry a parasite that can cause heart [sic] disease.”

Channeled apple snails were introduced along the Treasure Coast about five to seven years ago, Gioeli said, possibly by people who planned to raise them for super-sized servings of escargot but let them escape into the environment.

The sizable snails also are favorites in aquariums, so it’s likely some have been dumped into South Florida waters after they got too large for their glassed-in homes.

“We’re seeing them all along the Treasure Coast,” Gioeli said. “Walk along any canal in western St. Lucie County, and you’re likely to see clusters of their eggs . . pink, about the color of Pepto-Bismol.” The native apple snail eggs, by contrast, are white.

“We’ve got a bunch of them,” said Mike Adams, president of Adams Ranch west of Fort Pierce said of the seemingly steroidal snails. “I first saw them four of five years ago in some of the South Florida Water Management District canals and the places linked to them. Now you see them all over the place.”

Once in the canals, the channeled apple snails eat the same vegetation as the Florida apple snails. “The problem is that the larger non-native snails eat
more than the smaller native snails and are out-competing them for food,” Gioeli said.

Florida apple snails are the primary food source for snail kites, hawk-like birds of prey seen in this country only in Florida. And although you’d think snail kites would go nuts over the larger channeled apple snails, a veritable Big Mac compared to the White Castle slider of the native apple snail, they don’t.

“I haven’t seen any reports of snail kites eating channeled apple snails,” Gioeli said. “Apparently, they don’t recognize the larger snail as food.”

Plus, the birds’ beaks are hooked in such a way that they can get into native apple snail shells, Gioeli said, but they haven’t adapted to eating the non-natives.

By the way, Gioeli said no giant African land snails have been reported on the Treasure Coast … yet. “If they’re in Miami,” he said, “chances are they’ll work their way up here. That’s the pattern we’ve seen with other non-native species.”

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Researchers awarded nearly $150,000 international research training grant

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa News Release on September 14, 2011

The National Science Foundation’s International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program has awarded a $149,952 grant to Drs. Kenneth Hayes and Robert Cowie of UH Mānoa’s Center for Conservation Research and Training, Dr. Romi Burks of Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas, and an international team of researchers from Uruguay and Brazil.

The IRES program gives undergraduate and graduate students from U.S. institutions the opportunity to carry out international research projects in host countries with the goal of educating a globally engaged science workforce. Under the direction of Hayes and Burks, this IRES award will support 15 undergraduate students and one graduate student to conduct collaborative research in Brazil and Uruguay for three years.

The program is co-organized by Dr. Silvano Thiengo from the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil and Dr. Mariana Meerhoff from the Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay.

The goal of the project is to develop a research-training model using a group of aquatic snails commonly called apple snails. These snails are native to Uruguay and Brazil, but are invasive in Hawai‘i, Texas and other locations throughout the world where they are an environmental and agricultural pest.

Using the snails as a focal system and integration across disciplines, students will develop independent research projects collaboratively with established experts from museums, government research agencies, research universities and undergraduate institutions. These training experiences will ensure that students are prepared to enter the world of international scientific research and education, and that the U.S. remains a leader in science and technology.

For more information, please contact Dr. Kenneth Hayes at (808) 956-0956 or khayes@hawaii.edu.

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With $61,000, one Warnell prof sets out to rid the world of an invasive species

By MARCUS FLOYD on August 28, 2011, RedandBlack.com

Apple snails may sound cute and harmless, but a team of
University researchers won a massive grant to rid Georgia waters of these
dangerous mollusks.

“The snails are from South America and were introduced here
during the aquarium pet trade,” said Susan Wilde, an assistant professor in the
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. “Someone may have gotten the
snails to clean their aquariums and then dumped them in the wild when they were
no longer needed.”

About the size of their fruity namesake, apple snails
consume a larger amount of aquatic plants than their native counterparts.

“The snails remove aquatic plants, which leave the lakes
looking muddy, and instead of plants, algae blooms appear in the lake,” Wilde
said.

Like many invasive species, apple snails lay eggs more
frequently than native snails.

“Apple snails lay eggs every 15 days all year long, whereas
native snails lay 2 clutches a year,” Wilde said. “The eggs that apple snails
lay are small and pink. They almost resemble a wad of bubble gum.”

Another concern is that the apple snail may carry harmful
human parasites.

Wilde received a $61,000 grant from the Georgia Department
of Natural Resources to investigate the invasive nature of apple snails.

“The Georgia DNR had concerns about the snails due to the
complaints of residents in the areas where the snails have been found, but they
do not have the time to go out and research the situation, so they approached
us since we have the time,” Wilde said.

Invasive species tend to cause damage to ecosystems and the
apple snail is no exception. The algae blooms that are created once the apple
snails enter a fresh water ecosystem leave the water damaged and muddy.

“Invasive species are a big issue, especially in the
Southeast,” said Shelley Robertson, a science and freshwater graduate student.
“It’s important to catch invasive species early to protect our natural water
resources.”

A team of researchers tested the water quality and the plant
communities in lakes where the snails were located. They discovered the
presence of apple snails led to poor water quality and algae blooms.

“We went to southeast Georgia where the DNR had reports of
the snails being seen, and we let people in the area know who we were so they
could inform us of where they had seen the snails,” said Rebecca Haynie, a
postdoctoral student working on the apple snail research with Wilde.

The group also looked in the water for certain properties
that allow the snails to breed so successfully in Georgia wetlands.

“We are mapping areas and preparing to go to southwest
Georgia to survey drainage areas and adjacent sites to determine their
movement,” Haynie said.

Although the number of apple snails continues to grow, the
snails do have a natural predator.

“Snail kites are an endangered bird that eats the smaller
snails, but the larger snails may be harder for younger birds to eat because of
the larger shells,” Wilde said.

Other methods of controlling the apple snail population have
been introduced as well.

“Some people in Alabama have introduced redear sunfish, or
the ‘shellcracker,’ to lakes,” Wilde said.

Copper sulfate also kills the snails, but it has harmful
side effects and is expensive.

“We want to pursue a form of biological control or something
that is economically friendly without the use of chemicals,” Haynie said.

The groups would also like to pursue some form of outreach.

“We are going to add it [the apple snail] to my website here
at the lab,” Wilde said. “And we plan to hold public meetings in communities
where the apple snails are.”

Public knowledge is an important part of the research groups
outreach efforts.

“The biggest thing to do to help would be to educate the
public about aquarium exits,” Wilde said. “Also the recognition of the snails
and eggs would help as well.”

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Apple snails continue invasion

by Nikki Buskey, Staff Writer, HoumaToday.com, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, USA

August 21, 2011

During warm months, their alien, bubblegum-pink eggs dot the waterline in Bayou Black, Chacahoula and now, Bayou Terrebonne. Invasive apple snails gained a foothold in Terrebonne Parish in 2008, and scientists say they’re steadily spreading.

“There’s really very little you can do but sit back and watch the invasion,” said Michael Massimi, invasive species director with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program in Thibodaux.

Massimi said two cold winters in 2009 and 2010 helped to knock back the snails’ population in Terrebonne. But the warm, wet weather has brought them back, and they’re spreading again.

Jade Leboeuf of Houma said he and others have spotted lots of the snails in Bayou Black near his house in Gibson.

The first sign that apple snails have established themselves in a waterway is their eggs, Massimi said. The snails crawl out of the water during warm months and lay bright pink eggs a few feet above the waterline.

The aquatic snails can lay between 200-600 tiny eggs in one bunch. They’ll continue to lay eggs as long as the weather is warm and could be reproducing through fall. They do have some local predators, including raccoons, minks, otters, wading birds, turtles and alligators. When they’re very small, even crawfish may eat them. But they reproduce so rapidly that predators can’t keep up, Massimi said. It would take another long, cold winter or a strong drought to battle back the snails.

Apple snails have been documented in Florida, Texas and California, but it’s only recently that they’ve began popping up in Louisiana, much to the concern of scientists. The snails were first sighted in the Donner and Chacahoula areas in 2008. A separate population was also found in Bayou Black. Apple snails have been sighted in other parts of Louisiana, including Gretna, Lafitte and in the Barataria Basin.

The snails are common in the pet trade, Massimi said, and that’s likely how they reached Terrebonne, probably dumped into local waterways by a disenchanted aquarium owner. With multiple, growing populations in Terrebonne, Massimi said he’s worried the snails could spread even further hitching a ride on boats or carried by curious children. They may also spread through Terrebonne’s intricately connected system of drainage canals, he said.

In the lush swamps of south Louisiana, tropical invasive plants and animals can cause problems in the environment, thriving to the point where they outgrow native species.

Apple snails are new to the system, and scientists can only speculate on the impact they’ll have. They’ve invaded environments in Florida and Texas and are also an invasive species to Southeast Asia, where they’ve been a major source of rice-crop damage.

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Big Island man survives rare and deadly disease

Reported by Jai Cunningham of Channel KHON2 in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 19, 2011

It’s a rare disease that can be contracted from eating raw vegetables. Rat lungworm can wreak havoc on a person’s body, and in some cases even cause death.

Graham McCumber’s steps are measured. “To be able to walk as good as I can now, it took like three years,” he says. You see Graham is a rat lungworm disease survivor.

“It made it hard for me to walk, well I was in a coma for three months. So, my muscles all atrophied. I had to relearn how to do pretty much everything,” he says.

Three years to go from a coma to walking, it was a chore taking all those steps to get back to where he is today.

“As a mom, seeing somebody who had been a surfer, skateboarder, healthy, completely devastated where he could not get himself from the floor onto a couch, much less walk,” says Kay Hoew, Graham’s mother.

As for how the Big Island resident got the disease – “I got a parasite from eating vegetables, maybe not cleaned properly,” Graham says.

Once the parasite is in the body it attacks the central nervous system. Graham’s mom says they had to go outside the mainstream of western medicine to find different help for Graham.

“We’ve seen them work. And when I look at people who have not used them and have just gone with the prescribed medication, which are mostly pain relievers, a lot of them morphine based. We’ve got a different situation here,” Howe says.

Graham and his mom are sharing that message at a two day conference where researchers are formulating plans on how to find out more about the disease and prevent it from spreading.

“What we would tell people to do is obviously if the main pathway of getting infected is by accidentally eating a snail or slug in produce, make sure produce is clean,” said Robert Cowie of the University of Hawaii.

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International workshop
on rat lungworm disease to be held on August 17-18

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Contact: Robert H. Cowie,
(808) 956-4909

An international scientific workshop to address concerns
about the parasitic infection known as “rat lungworm disease,” which has
recently caused serious illness, including coma, in a number of people in
Hawai‘i, will be held on August 17-18 at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Workshop organizers include UH Mānoa’s Robert Cowie, a
researcher in the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC), and Jim Hollyer
of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), as well as
colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Hilo and the Centers for
Disease Control in Atlanta.

The transdisciplinary workshop will bring together an
international group of scientists and clinicians from places as far apart as
Brazil, Jamaica, China and Thailand. They bring a broad range of expertise and
experience to the meeting, ranging from parasitology, ecology and food safety,
to disease epidemiology, medical diagnosis, and patient treatment. The goal of
the meeting is to develop a concerted research agenda to address this disease
at a global scale.

Attendance is by invitation only, but future workshops on
each island are being planned and will facilitate local input and outreach.

Rat lungworm disease is contracted when people ingest the
immature worms that are carried by snails and slugs. Ingestion is most often
inadvertent—for example, by eating a small baby slug on a lettuce leaf. But
there are known cases in which people have deliberately eaten uncooked slugs—in
at least one case, on a dare.

Snails and slugs become infected with the worms by feeding
on feces from infected rodents, primarily rats. Worms begin their development
in the rats and are then passed in the feces. When they are eaten by snails and
slugs, the worms develop further, only then to be eaten by rats, in which the
worms reproduce. The cycle then repeats. This is the natural way in which the
worms develop and reproduce.

If people eat the snails or slugs, however, the worms
develop but die once they reach the central nervous system, especially the
brain. Then the immune reaction caused by the dead worms results in serious
inflammation and damage in the nervous system and brain, and can lead to
symptoms including headache, stiff neck, numbness, tingling or pain in the
skin, fever, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, weakness, joint pain and
neurological abnormalities. More severe symptoms can include paralysis of the
legs, bowel and bladder dysfunction, seizures, coma and, although rare, death.

The disease appears to be a tropical disease but, with the
increasing spread of invasive alien species, including rats, and slugs and
snails, to all parts of the world, and with global warming increasing the
potential latitudinal range of the parasite, it is seen as an important
emerging infectious disease.

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Apple snails staging comeback in Taiwan?

By Sofia Wu, Focus Taiwan, August 11, 2011

A local newspaper reported Thursday that the Yunlin county government launched a crackdown a day earlier on apple snail farms in the southern county to prevent the invasive species from damaging crops and the local ecology again.

County officials said three apple snail farms covering nearly 100 hectares of land have been discovered in the county, even though the Council of Agriculture (COA) imposed a ban on breeding the invasive farmland pests July 11.

“The crackdown is aimed at preventing a recurrence of the ecological woes caused by the animals in the past,” said Hsu Yung-yu, a section chief of the county’s Department of Agriculture.

The following is an excerpt of a report on the issue by the China Times:

Pomacea canaliculata, or channeled apple snails, were introduced into Taiwan from Argentina in 1979 by businessmen who planned to breed them as a
cheaper alternative to winkles, a local favorite.

However, their flavor failed to win over the taste buds of the Taiwanese, forcing the breeders to abandon their efforts. But the little pests are good adapters and voracious plant eaters. They quickly spread out of control into local farmland, causing huge damage to rice paddies and aquatic plants.

The COA managed to curb the spread of the snails only after many years of efforts and at great expense, which continues to this day to the tune o NT$20 million every year.

A new use for the species, however, has threatened to spark a new boom in apple snail farming. Early this year, a local biotechnology company announced that it has developed the technology to extract astaxanthin — a natural antioxidant that can be used to produce anti-aging supplements — from the eggs of apple snails.

The company said the annual output of skincare and healthcare products that use the extract could exceed NT$12 billion.

In a preemptive effort to stave off a recurrence of the ecological disaster seen three decades ago , the COA announced a ban on apple snail farming July 11.

COA officials said the mollusks are ranked among the top 10 invasive species in the country.

Under current regulations, farmers who illegally raise the creatures can be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 and can be ordered to destroy their stocks within a specified period of time.

Wu Yi-lung, an executive of the biotech company that has developed the technology to extract the astaxanthin, said Wednesday that he supports the COA’s ban on apple snail farming.

Wu said his company’s decision to purchase the snails from local farmers was mainly aimed at encouraging them to catch the pests in the wild rather than asking them to start breeding the species.

The owners of the three apple snail farms in Yunlin said they built the aquaculture ponds early this year after signing contracts with the biotech company. The COA’s abrupt announcement of the breeding ban in July without announcing any complementary measures has dealt them a big blow. “The government’s decision was unreasonable and unfair,” said one owner.

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Taiwan bans apple snail farming to protect agriculture

By Yang Su-min and Christie Chen, Central News Agency July 7, 2011 Taipei, July 7, 2011

Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA) imposed a ban on apple snail farming beginning on July 11 in
the country’s latest efforts to curb the invasive species and prevent them from
damaging local crops.

Pomacea canaliculata, or channeled apple snails, were
introduced from Argentina into Taiwan in 1979. However, their flavor failed to
win over the taste buds of local consumers, forcing farmers to abandon their
cultivation efforts.

But the little pests are good adapters and quickly spread
out of control into farmland, causing damage to rice paddies and aquatic
plants. Now, a new use for the mollusk could have prompted an agriculture boom
in snail farming.

Biotechnology companies in Taiwan have reportedly spent huge
sums of money developing a technology that extracts astaxanthin — a natural
antioxidant that can be used to produce anti-aging supplements — from the eggs
of the mollusk.

These companies estimate the annual output value of skin
care and health care products that use the substance could reach NT$12 billion
(US$416.49 million). However, the COA responded to this with a ban on the
farming of the snails.

According to Fei Wen-chi of COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant
Health Inspection and Quarantine, her agency allocates NT$20 million annually
to combat the spread of apple snails, which are ranked among the top 10
invasive species in Taiwan.

Fei said those who illegally breed channeled apple snails
will be subject to fines of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000, and will be
required to destroy their stocks within a certain time limit. Her agency also
suggested that biotech companies purchase snails from farmers who catch them in
their fields, which, coincidentally, will reduce their numbers in the wild.

An official from biotechnology company Bioptik Ltd., who
spoke in condition of anonymity, said that his company “agrees with the
COA from the point of view of keeping a lid on the proliferation of the
farmland pests.”

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Spike in rat lungworm reported

By COLIN M. STEWART, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, May 27, 2011

Cases of rat lungworm infection have made a disturbing resurgence during a typically slow time of year for the disease.

Recent numbers show four probable cases of rat lungworm
disease, called angiostrongyliasis, in Hawaii this year, with two being
diagnosed in the last month, according to State Epidemiologist Sarah Park.

All four cases were found on the Big Island, said Newton
Inouye, the state Department of Health’s acting district environmental health program chief for the Big Island.

“We are starting to see an increase of it on this
island, and it is unusual to have it now since it is usually found during the winter season,” he said.

A rare form of meningitis caused by the parasite
Angiostrongylus cantonensis, rat lungworm is difficult to diagnose due to its wide array of symptoms, said Marlena Dixon, East Hawaii’s epidemiological specialist. That’s why health officials often say they have identified “probable” cases, she explained.

“It has existed on the island since the ’60s, but we didn’t start tracking it until 2005,” she said. “It’s difficult to identify, because its incidence is low, and secondly because there isn’t an approved test for it. You have to look at a set of symptoms and other factors
… and basically made an educated guess.”

Symptoms can include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting,
neck stiffness, skin and light sensitivity, and other problems related to the brain and spinal cord, such as numbness or partial paralysis. The symptoms differ in severity, with most people recovering without ever seeking treatment. But some can experience debilitating illness — or even die.

Former Wa’a Wa’a resident Graham McCumber spent three
months in a coma, one of the more severe cases identified on the Big Island in 2009. An avid surfer and carpenter’s apprentice, the 26-year-old made a near-miraculous recovery after doctors told his family that even if he emerged from his coma, he would “probably be a vegetable,” said his aunt, Maureen Miller.

“Right now, he’s living with his mom in Utah after moving there a few months ago,” Miller said Thursday. “I just saw a note on Facebook from him, and he’s finally able to ride his bike again.”

Her nephew’s recovery has been long and difficult, Miller
said, but McCumber and his mother, Kay Howe, both made a point during their time on the Big Isle to help spread the word about the dangers of the disease and to call attention to the ways in which it can be contracted.

According to Dixon, cases tend to be more prevalent from
November through March, although they can crop up at any time of the year. Why they occur more frequently during the winter is still a mystery, she said.

“There is so much we are still learning,” she said.

Primarily, she said, people contract the disease when they mistakenly eat small slugs that can be inside or on the surface of leafy green vegetables. Other carriers of the parasite include snails and rats found throughout Hawaii, as well as freshwater prawns and crabs. The disease gets its name from the fact that rats are the “definitive” hosts for the parasite. Slugs and snails become carriers of the disease when they eat the feces of rats carrying the parasite.

Keeping home gardens free of rodents, snails and slugs can reduce the risk of rat lungworm disease, which means washing all raw
vegetables and fruits thoroughly and visually inspecting them to be sure they are free of slugs and snails, Dixon said. Eating contaminated uncooked or undercooked snails, slugs and freshwater prawns increases the risk of contracting rat lungworm.

Additionally, cleaning all food preparation surfaces such as countertops and cutting boards are important. One can ensure the safety of young children and infants by keeping foreign items out of their mouths and their hands clean.

For more information, contact the East Hawaii District Health Office at 933-0912, or the West Hawaii District Health Office at 322-4877. You can also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rat lungworm site: www.cdc.gov/parasites/angiostrongylus/

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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Don’t trigger another apple snail disaster in Taiwan

United Daily News Editorial by Y. F. Low on May 25, 2011

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu recently came up with the idea of encouraging farmers to raise apple snails after learning that eggs of the mollusk can be a source of astaxanthin — a natural antioxidant that can be used to produce anti-aging supplements. Such idea would be a gigantic gamble. If the activity were to trigger another apple snail disaster, Taiwan’s agricultural sector and ecosystems would suffer an unbearable, fatal blow.

Pomacea canaliculata, or channeled apple snail, was introduced from Argentina into Taiwan in 1979 to start a heliciculture industry. Unaware of the possible threat of alien species to domestic ecosystems, Taiwan’s agricultural authorities decided to promote channeled apple snail farming simply because they thought the species might have higher value for consumers than domestic species because of their larger size.

The flavor of the foreign species failed to impress local consumers, however, forcing farmers to abandon the farming of channeled apple snails. The alien species thus made their way into paddy fields, ponds and swamps. Due to their great adaptation and reproductive abilities, the snails spread to any place with water in less than a year and became the No. 1 killer of domestic crops, eating away every green plant bit by bit.

Over the past 30 years, channeled apple snails have resulted in tens of billions of Taiwan dollars in agricultural losses in Taiwan. Every year, our government has to spend hundreds of millions of Taiwan dollars to try to control the crisis.

Before re-starting apple snail farming, we should first obtain scientific evidence proving the anti-aging properties of apple snail-based astaxanthin and make an accurate estimation of its commercial value. If the idea is considered viable after the assessment, proper measures must be taken to ensure that the farms are completely separated from the outside world. There should also be plans to deal with the aftermath of possible industry failure, so as to prevent a new wave of apple snail disaster.

_______________________________________________________________

Mobile Press-Register 4/19/2011 (Mobile, Alabama, USA)

_____________________________________

Charles de Garmo: Scott must appoint South Florida Water Management District director who will be more accountable to taxpayers

By Charles de Garmo, a boat captain, lives in Sewall’s Point.
Published Thursday, April 28, 2011 by the TCPalm

In my last column, I wrote about the failures of the South Florida Water Management District. It’s been unsuccessful at getting storm-water treatment areas built and running and has squandered more than $575 million of taxpayer money on failed projects. Here’s a continued exposure of wasteful practices of the aircraft carrier of a bureaucracy that is so good at ground breakings but so poor at ribbon cuttings.

One of the key issues to discuss is that I hope Gov. Rick Scott appoints a new district executive director — to replace Carol Wehle, who recently quit — who will change the direction of this money-wasting sinkhole of a bureaucracy in a positive way. Let his new director mark the beginning of the taxpayer getting what he thinks he’s paying for, and not failed water projects, wasteful spending and catering to special interests.

With that thought in mind, let there be no more $250,000 studies by consultants of a SAP computer program that the consultants recommended not buying and the district bought anyway. This is a bottomless pit of a program that we have to continue paying for because it’s useless without SAP support. Costs this year alone are $8.8 million for the program, $16.5 million for Internet technology, $4.5 million for facility management and $8.9 million for administration. For $38.7 million a year I would expect the SAP program could pick the winning Powerball number at least once a year to pay for itself.

___________________________________

Let there be no more apple snail rejuvenation programs (entitlements for birds) that spent $3.80 per snail on costly studies before and after releasing snails to feed the snail kite population. No more outreach programs that paid one ex-district employee $2 million or $7,290 per student to teach minorities construction site safety and bulldozer operation. Or the wasted $2.4 million to two schools to teach the same thing only to have the students fail drug tests. No one was hired after either program. No more Nubbin Slough storm-water treatment areas so overdesigned that it can’t even get full during the rainy season. Let better planning end debacles like the A-1 Everglades Agriculture Area reservoir that the district spent $300 million on before walking away and leaving another failure. No more deals like the 2007 purchase of $1.5 million in pumps from the politically connected Morrison Pump Co. When the pumps failed, the district requested they be fixed under the five-year warranty, but the company refused, saying the pumps were misused. I can only guess that some apple snails clogged up the pumps to voidthe warranty.

What troubles me when I see deals like this one with Morrison Pump is that the district threatened to sue and remove Morrison Pump from its bidder list, yet Morrison still mentions in its website that it is still part of the “technical team” in Everglades restoration. As of today the district hasn’t sued or removed Morrison from the bid list and paid $1.85 million to a new vendor to replace 15 pumps. You have to wonder how many engineering and construction firms who have worked on failed projects still get to bid on new work? No one ever seems to be held responsible at the water district and its success rate is unacceptable so please, Gov. Scott, change this scenario.

The mission statement of the water management district is: To manage and protect water resources of the region by balancing and improving water quality, flood control, natural systems and water supply. The good employees at the district know it by heart while upper management seems to be clueless about what the statement means and how to implement it.

If a newdirector doesn’t turn things around, dial 911, because you’re being robbed.

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Keith Winsten’s Brevard Naturally: Mollusks are more than just snails

Written by KEITH
WINSTEN FOR FLORIDA TODAY, April 23, 2011

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Molly the Mollusk. No, it wasn’t my oldest daughter, who bears the same name but rarely has the habit of retreating into her own shell. It was a giant squid preserved in formaldehyde and carefully displayed in a special tank at the Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota.

Now, it’s been a long time since I studied invertebrate classification in college, and it took me a moment to remember that squids are mollusks, along with snails, scallops and some other mostly marine creatures. Given my ignorance on the subject, I thought I might freshen up on the topic and share some basic mollusk biology with you.

Next to the arthropods (invertebrates with jointed appendages like insect and spiders), mollusks are the most diverse animal group on Earth. There are more than 85,000 species and they can be found in all kinds of aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Some species even are found on mountainsides and in deserts.

There are six main groups of mollusks. We are most familiar with a few of them. The cephalopods include the aforementioned squids and octopus. Bivalves live up to their name and include mollusks with two shells, such as clams; and gastropods include the often land-dwelling slug and snail group. You also might have heard of the chitons, a group whose flexible shell is made of eight separate plates.

The two other lesser-known groups of mollusks are the tusk shells and the amphineura. Tusk shells look like little ridged elephant tusks with the soft parts of the body living in the wider base of the tusk. Like many mollusks, they have a “foot,” which can extend out of the base of the shell and can dig them down into the sand on the ocean floor. And finally, the amphineura, which are related to the chitons, and are worm-like deep-water denizens.

Mollusks are such a diverse group that it is hard to find anatomical features common to all. In fact, most biology texts give up and show a diagram of a generalized mollusk. There are two body parts that make a mollusk a mollusk. First, they all have a soft wall on the back of the body called a mantle. In shell-bearing species, the mantle is the organ that secretes the shells. The second is their nervous system consists of two pairs of nerve cords. In many kinds of mollusks, there is an opening under the mantle called the mantle cavity. This is where the digestive, respiratory and reproduction systems can be found. And many species have a recognizable foot for locomotion and head for sensing and eating.

Sitting on a bookshelf in my office is a beautiful fossilized mollusk, an ammonite that is the diameter of a basketball. Ammonites were a once-common group of mollusks, related to today’s chambered nautilus that went extinct along with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. And that fossil reminds me even diverse and numerous mollusks are vulnerable to environmental changes.

Most susceptible are land-dwelling snail species. According to the bible of endangered species list, the IUCN Red List, there are almost 2,000 threatened nonmarine mollusks and
only 41 threatened marine species, even though the great majority of mollusks live in water. That’s because many tropical islands have their own unique and often beautiful species of snails, and these species are vulnerable.

These snails have evolved in isolation for thousands, if not millions, of years. But just like early explorers brought rats, cats and goats and other introduced species to the islands they visited, they also brought invasive snails. In many cases, they first brought giant grazing snails from Africa that wiped out their crops. Then to solve the problem, they brought large predatory snails to wipe out the African snails. But rather than eating the African snails, these lions of the mollusk world ate all the native snails.

Many of these species have been lost and others are on the edge of extinction. Zoos even are working to save one group of snails, the Partula snails from the Pacific Islands that come in a variety of rainbow colors.

If you want evidence of an invasive snail in your neighborhood, look for pink egg masses on emergent water plants just above the water line. This is from the invasive Island Apple Snail, Pomacea insularum, which is muscling out the native apple snail, which lays white eggs.

Winsten is executive director of Brevard Zoo/East Coast Zoological Society of Florida.
Contact him at admin@brevardzoo.org.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: Invasive apple snails are on the move in Southwest Florida

By Shawn E. Liston, Citizen Contributor, NaplesNews.com, March 8, 2011

While invasive apple snails have not yet been observed in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, scientists and land managers know that unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time.

Our native ‘Florida apple snails’ are a common sight in wetlands, along canal banks and in ponds and other permanent water bodies. They are a preferred food source for many animals, including Everglade snail kites (an endangered raptor native to Florida and Cuba), limpkins, turtles and otters. While these snails are well camouflaged to avoid predation, empty shells can often be found in piles along the edges of wetlands. Often more obvious than the adult apple snails, white clusters of Florida apple snail eggs can commonly be seen above the surface of the water on cypress trees, plants and canal banks.

In the last decade or so, three species of invasive apple snails (native to South America) have become established in South Florida and scientists fear they may pose a threat to our native ecosystem. While the shells of adult snails are very difficult to tell apart, apple snails can easily be identified by differences in the egg masses that they lay.

Island apple snails are the most widespread invader in the Southeast U.S., currently established in coastal states from South Carolina to Florida to Texas. At full size, adults are noticeably larger than our native apple snail, but younger individuals cannot be easily distinguished. Island apple snail egg masses are bright pink and the individual eggs are smaller than those of our native (native apple snail eggs are also pink when they are first laid, and they turn white as their outer shell dries).

Spike-topped apple snails are established throughout South Florida and have been collected in several places farther north on the Florida peninsula. Egg masses are salmon-colored.

Titan apple snails are currently established only in Palm Beach County and their egg masses are a seafoam/pastel green color.

While these non-native apple snails rapidly spread throughout our region, scientists are working hard to better understand their potential impacts. Early observations suggest they are displacing native apple snails, perhaps by consuming young native snails.

The effects of these invasions on apple snail predators are unknown. While we currently have no known control methods for adult snails, egg masses can easily be destroyed by crushing or drowning them. Caution should be taken, however, to ensure eggs are from non-native snails before destroying them. Information on identifying apple snails and reporting non-natives you encounter can be found online using FWC’s Nonnative Apple Snail Reporting page.

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Philippines to fight invading species

Like some bad science-fiction movie, Philippine fishermen are encountering strange alien creatures: tough, speckled fish with sharp spines that tear and rip their nets.

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 3/9/2011

These suckermouth catfish from South America are just one of a growing number of foreign species that are spreading in local waterways and forests, threatening to edge out the country’s indigenous plants and animals.

The catfish, locally known as “janitor fish”, were originally introduced locally for aquariums but careless handling and weak controls allowed them to escape into the wild — just like scores of other animals and plants.

These foreign species may look like cute turtles or lovely flowers but government wildlife experts warn that they are displacing native plants and animals while causing massive harm to the farming and fishing industries.

“The ecological threat of invasive species is so great, they could transform the landscape, wipe out native species and destroy the diversity of the ecosystem,” said government wildlife specialist Anson Tagtag.

In the case of the suckermouth catfish, it has multiplied faster than local species while competing with them for food and building nests in mud banks, dirtying the waters.

Filipinos generally find janitor fish unpalatable so those that are caught by fishermen go to waste.

In a belated response to threat posed by all foreign species, the government has just begun a three-year program to find out exactly what is out there and devise strategies to contain or eradicate the problems.

The program is not expected to work miracles but it is a promising start after decades of foreign plants and animals being brought into the country without enough safeguards.

Tagtag, who is one of the leaders of the program, said there were about 100 alien plant and animal species known to have become a problem in the Philippines.

Many of these invaders were welcomed into the country, initially for their supposed beneficial effects or as ornamental plants or pets, he said.

Perhaps the best — or worst — example was the Taiwanese golden apple snail, introduced by the government in the 1970s as a possible alternative food source for farmers, he said.

Filipinos never developed a taste for the golden snail but the snail’s taste for rice crops now causes millions of dollars in agricultural damage every year, Tagtag told AFP.

Other invaders, such as the water hyacinth, were brought into the country purely to decorate fishponds.

Now this floating water plant reproduces wildly, clogging water systems and preventing sunlight from reaching other aquatic vegetation.

Tagtag said that in the past there was a lack of clear rules that made it easy to bring in potentially harmful species such as American bullfrogs or the climbing “santana” vines that have flourished.

The Philippines, like its neighbors in Southeast Asia, is generally behind European countries in imposing controls on these alien species, according to Tagtag.

“We are all in the same stage. We all similarly realized just recently how serious this problem is,” he said.

Some Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, have launched programs to eradicate foreign species but the Philippines merely has poorly enforced regulations to control their entry, Tagtag said.

The danger of more such alien invaders entering the country is evident at the country’s shopping malls where exotic animals are peddled in select pet stores.

“Most pet owners are not responsible owners. They tend to throw away animals when they are no longer interested, (allowing them to reproduce in the wild),” said Josefina de Leon, chief of the government’s wildlife resources division.

At one pet store in Manila, huge, sharp-toothed alligator gars — a fish that looks like an alligator — swim inside large aquariums while pinkish African frogs hop about in a giant glass jar.

“We have to look into that. I don’t know if we have authorized breeders of alligator gars,” said de Leon when asked about the legality of selling the exotic North American species.

Shady pet stores are often raided and their alien species seized but they inevitably reopen with new exotic animals for sale.

“From time to time, we conduct raids of pet stores, we have charged many people and filed many cases. But we have too few people to do the job,” said Primo Capistrano, head of the environment agency’s regional wildlife division.

“No matter how many times you raid them, they come back.”

On a national scale, with 122 small ports and 35 major piers, government agencies simply do not have the manpower and resources to prevent these alien species from being smuggled in, according to de Leon.

The environment department’s program aims to understand the scope of the invasion of alien species and formulate policies to deal with them, be it containment, control or eradication.

De Leon said they already knew that toxic weeds now contaminated the country’s pasture lands, while local frogs were being over-run by invaders from North America and Taiwan.

There are also unverified reports of Chinese soft-shelled turtles being found southeast of Manila and persistent rumors that flesh-eating piranhas have been smuggled into the country.

But while there is much hope for the new campaign, De Leon warned it would fail unless the environment department had much broader support than it currently received.

“There are people who do not want to cooperate. This is not just an issue of enforcement. We have to educate the local governments, senators, the judiciary,” she said.

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Amazonian apple snails found in Baldwin pond

By Ben Raines, Press-Register, January 29, 2011

Baldwin Pond/ Raines/ Press-Register

SPANISH FORT, Alabama — When spring comes and water temperatures begin to rise, Mobile’s Langan Park won’t be the only place state officials have to watch for the reemergence of the Amazonian apple snail.

While it escaped widespread attention during the oil spill, a breeding population of the baseball-sized snails was discovered last summer in a pond in Baldwin County about a mile from the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

It is unclear how snails indigenous to the Amazon ended up in the manmade lake in the Blakeley Forest subdivision off Ala. 225. While it is possible a bird may have carried a female snail from Langan Park or Three Mile Creek — the two Mobile County water bodies known to have the snails — officials said a much more likely scenario involved someone dumping an aquarium into the subdivision pond.

For decades, apple snails were sold in pet stores as a means of keeping tanks free of algae. The snails are prodigious plant eaters and have proven to be successful at colonizing new habitats, to the detriment of native creatures. They have become a nuisance in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. In some areas, they have been blamed for wiping out up to 95 percent of the native aquatic vegetation.

The Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries is entering into the third year of an ongoing battle to wipe out the populations in Langan Park and Three Mile Creek. Multiple applications of copper sulfate, which is toxic to snails, and an aggressive effort to destroy the bright pink egg masses seen on walls, trees, cattails and other vegetation at the water’s edge appear to have made a dent in the population.

Even with those efforts, the snails are tough to control because they can lay eggs roughly every two weeks.

“The (Langan Park) population was way down this summer. We’re going to try to concentrate on the creek more this year. We did a copper treatment on the pond in Baldwin, but we don’t know how successful that was yet,” said Dave Armstrong, a state biologist. A large number of snails were found to have survived copper treatments in the park.

At this time last year, traps set in Langan Park would catch 20 to 30 snails every time they were set out. This year, he said the traps often came up empty.

The main concern regarding the snails is that they could colonize the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and threaten one of the most diverse and abundant wetland areas in the nation. The new population in Baldwin County poses a unique threat because the pond there is less than a mile from the Delta, and connected by a creek.

“We don’t know what impact they will have, what the snail will eat, and what the food web implications are for our area,” said Charlie Martin, a scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab who has studied the snails for several years.

Martin conducted a series of experiments on the snails to determine whether they could potentially colonize the Delta. Scientists had speculated that the snails would not fare well in the Delta due to the brackish water and tidal flows. Martin’s results suggest those hopes were unfounded.

He found that the snail eggs generally survive going underwater during high tides and that snails are able to grow and thrive in the salinities normally found in the Delta.

“We want to continue our research to figure out what species of submerged grasses and emergent vegetation they like to eat, and what impact this has on fish that use that habitat,” Martin said. “We also want to monitor where they are so we can focus our resources on eradication.”

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Giant snails, pink mealybugs: No, it’s not New Year hangover…

Hembree Brandon, Delta Farm Press, January 14, 2010

Cooperative Agricultural Pest  Survey (CAPS) is a partnership between federal and state agricultural organizations to conduct surveillance, detection, monitoring, and management of exotic weeds, plant diseases, insects, nematodes and other invertebrate organisms not native to the U.S.

Kenneth Calcote, branch director of the Plant Pest Division of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, says the 2011 survey in his state will be on the lookout for a number of potentially threatening pests of cotton, rice, and soybeans.

With today’s far-reaching international commerce system, the opportunity for the introduction of non-native pests is great, and as has been demonstrated with kudzu, cogongrass, and other foreign invaders, the ability to adapt and spread can be significant.

Among the possible invaders Calcotte says the CAPS initiative will be looking for in Mississippi this year [are South American] apple snails, Pomacea spp., invasive non-native snails that are serious risks to the ecosystem, agricultural crops, ornamentals, and various types of nursery stock. It is also a carrier of the rat lungworm parasite, which poses a human health risk. Apple snails reproduce vigorously, each producing hundreds of pink eggs that are laid in masses above the water line.

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Hanalei taro tour a journey into Kauai family’s farming history

By John Heckathorn , Hawaii Magazine
Dec 10, 2010 at 02:19 AM

Even dressed in muddy boots and jeans, Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama has an entire tour group hanging on her every word. It’s not every day you get to meet a fifth-generation farmer from Kauai’s lush Hanalei Valley.

The wetland taro fields that stretch out green and glimmering as you cross the one-lane metal bridge into Hanalei? That’s Haraguchi Farm, the largest taro farm in the state.

Lyndsey’s great-great-grandfather began working these fields in 1924. They’re still worked by the family—her father and mother, brother, husband, even her 88-year-old grandfather and her 3-year-old daughter, making six generations in all. When she’s not giving one of her rare tours, Lyndsey spends her hours working the farm.

Taro grows in flooded fields called lo‘i, and the taro shoots are planted, tended and harvested by hand while wading in water and mud. It’s backbreaking labor. “Our family keeps chiropractors in business,” laughs Lyndsey.

Taro farming is arduous enough, but in addition, the low-lying fields are exposed to hurricanes and flash floods. The last flood, in November, 2009, almost wiped out the farm. Lyndsey’s mother had to be rescued from the farmhouse by Zodiac boat, and the family had to redo all its lo‘i and replace much equipment.

“It takes perseverance to be a farmer, maybe just being stubborn,” says Lyndsey.  She brightens the group’s mood by telling how she learned to drive a tractor at age 6, specifically so that when floods came, she could drive one of the farm’s tractors to higher ground, while her father drove the other. “To me, it was fun.”

The dozen or so people on this tour seem deeply affected by the trials of life on the lo‘i. You can tell by their reaction to the snails. 

In the 1980s, apple snails were introduced to Hawaii, originally for aquariums.  They got loose—and devastated taro crops. The snails lay bright pink egg sacs, easily visible against the green taro stalks.

Suddenly everyone on the tour is wielding a long-handled strainer, doing his or her best to scrape pink snail eggs off the plants. Lyndsey has to keep reminding them not to go into the water. “You’ll get stuck, and the mud will ruin your shoes.”

In 1984, Lyndsey’s mother, a former teacher, instituted free tours of the rice mill for schools, over the years ushering some 25,000 Kauai students and teachers through the mill. In 2005, with little or no fanfare, Lyndsey started the paid tours for adults, by arrangement only, usually once a week. “It started slow,” she says, “but it’s grown, mainly by word of mouth.”

A tour of a historic rice mill and taro fields is not for everyone, but those who go seem to be deeply engaged. It’s not a canned tour. Lyndsey isn’t reading from a script, she’s immersed in the subject and family history, able to answer questions on everything from turn-of-the-century mill engineering to endangered birds, since the taro fields also function as a wildlife sanctuary.

At the mill, we get a chance to pound poi, drink coconut water and sample Hawaiian-style coconut-taro cakes. That’s not the only food. The tour ends as it began, at the solar-powered lunch wagon, Hanalei Taro & Juice Co., run by Lyndsey’s husband, Brad Nakayama.

The tour includes lunch. “How do I eat this?” asks one guest of the laulau (You unwrap the shiny green ti leaves, but you eat the darker green taro tops wrapped round the pork).  Other guests take one look and choose turkey sandwiches.

Over lunch, I talked to Shann and Les Anderson, visitors from Maple Grove, Minn.  It’s Shann’s second tour.  “I went last time we were here, a couple of years ago,” she says.

“This time, I told Les, You have to take this tour. You have to love Lyndsey and her family. Farming’s a hard life, even in Hawai‘i.”

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Weaponised eggs turn predators’ stomachs

by Michael Marshall , Zoologer, New Scientist

December 2010

Species: Pomacea canaliculata

Habitat: originally from the wetlands of South America, it has been introduced to south-east Asia and the US, where it is considered an invasive species

How do you like your eggs? Improved by kisses, if you believe Dean Martin, eggs are good eating. They are full of nutrition, and while you might have to get past a parent or two, the eggs themselves don’t fight back.

As a result, all eggs are prime targets at mealtime. Parents may lose over half their ova, unless, that is, they are channelled apple snails, even though their eggs are brightly advertised. This modest animal packs a knockout defensive punch: an enzyme inhibitor that makes the eggs, quite literally, indigestible.

Bright red and dangerous

Channelled apple snails live underwater. Copulation is a laid-back affair, typically taking 12 hours but sometimes 20: apparently it takes this long simply to transfer enough sperm. Satisfied females then crawl out of the water onto plant stems or walls, where they lay their eggs in lumpy clusters. The eggs are a bright, pinkish red, and extremely conspicuous.

Bright colours are often warnings, and in this case the warning is honest. The eggs are laced with a protein called PV2, which has been shown to damage the spinal cords of mice leaving them weak and staggering. High doses kill mice within 30 hours.

Surely that’s enough of a defence for our lowly snail? Not so fast. PV2 is rather slow-acting and it seems unlikely that by itself it could ensure that the eggs are completely safe. Now Horacio Heras and colleagues of the National University of La Plata in Argentina have found that the eggs have a second line of defence.

Don’t eat me!

The answer lies in the colour. It comes from a protein called ovorubin, which is added to the egg by its mother and includes carotenoid pigments. This handy protein stops the eggs drying out in the sun and protects them against solar radiation. It had also long been assumed to defend the eggs against microbial infections. But when Heras tested it against a range of common bacteria like Escherichia coli and Salmonella, he found it had no effect.

A chemical analysis revealed that ovorubin is a proteinase inhibitor: it blocks the activity of enzymes that break down proteins. Proteinase inhibitors are common in plants, which use them to defend themselves against herbivores. Animals that eat too much of the plant find that they are unable to properly digest their food.

It turns out that the eggs use ovorubin in the same way. Ovorubin can bind itself to trypsin, a common digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins. Heras fed rats an ovorubin-enriched diet and found that they grew slower than rats given normal food, though the effect wore off after four days.

Channelled apple snail eggs are the first animal known to deter predators by stopping them digesting their food. Both toxic and indigestible, it’s no wonder that only one species of fire ant occasionally eats the apple snail’s eggs

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What’s going on in the great outdoors

BY STAFF REPORTS • FLORIDA TODAY • December 5, 2010

Public meeting set on Lake Toho project

A public meeting to provide updates on the Lake Toho hydrilla project is set for 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14 at the Osceola County Commission Chambers in the Administrative Building in Kissimmee.

Updates will be provided on the recent hydrilla herbicide applications, results and plans regarding the adaptive approach to hydrilla control for the winter and spring.

The approach was implemented to help protect the endangered Everglade snail kite by increasing the bird’s access to its food source, namely apple snails. The kite has lost most of its historic nesting and feeding habitat in South Florida because of drought and floods, and many have moved to Lake Toho.

Anglers, business owners and local officials have raised questions about the level of control and its economic effect on the value of the lake and the surrounding areas.

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 Debates persist over `threatened’ species

Mon, Nov. 29, 2010

BY CURTIS MORGAN, The Miami Herald
cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com

After a decade of wrestling over the protected status of the manatee, Florida wildlife managers adopted a new system of assessing extinction risks last year that essentially put them out of the controversial, litigious business of declaring things “endangered.”

The new approach split the old list in two. One simply adopted the federal endangered species list, which already ranks the manatee, Florida panther, wood stork, crocodile and many of the state’s highest profile at-risk denizens. The second state-only list lumped 61 others under a single “threatened” category — a status subject to review under a new suite of biological measures.

Now, some of those first reviews are in. The findings suggest the new approach could produce some of the same old debates.

Preliminary reviews, if they stand up, would knock half of 10 mammals off the state’s list — most notably the Florida black bear, an animal whose shrinking habitat has increasingly pushed it into potentially dangerous encounters with suburbanites. Last year, one black bear was spotted several times on the outskirts of Weston, which borders the Everglades in Broward County.

Four of 21 birds, including the brown pelican and snowy egret, also might no longer meet the criteria for a “threatened” designation. Reviews are still under way on 30 other at-risk reptiles and amphibians.

Wildlife managers stressed the reviews were only a first step in a process that won’t necessarily drop them from the list. And, they argue, even if it did result in removing the “threatened” tag, it would actually be a good thing — a sign that a once precarious population had at the least stabilized.

“We hope these preliminary findings will result in the discovery that our conservation measures in the past decade have had measurable, beneficial impacts on wildlife in Florida,” said Dr. Elsa Haubold, who heads the FWC’s threatened-species listing process team.

The preliminary reviews — conducted by agency staff and outside academic experts — found that appears to be the case for five mammals — the Florida black bear, chipmunk, Florida mouse, Homosassa shrew and Sherman’s fox squirrel.

Environmentalists are reserving judgment for now — but expressed some initial concerns.

Julie Wraithmell, wildlife policy coordinator for Audubon of Florida in Tallahassee, said her organization would have questions about data and analysis of the black bear and all four birds, the limpkin, brown pelican, snowy egret and white ibis.

The bear, with a population biologists estimate at 2,500 to 3,000, has lost a staggering amount of its historic territory and now survives in eight large but isolated swathes of Central and North Florida, with smaller numbers in Southwest Florida.

Brown pelicans, despite a statewide rebound, still struggle in some areas such as Tampa Bay, where reproduction rates “have not been great in the last decade,” Wraithmell said. Limpkin may be seen more frequently, she said, but mainly because they are feasting on an exotic apple snail that has invaded suburban lakes where water quality may be a concern.

“Is that a short-term boom with a long-term challenge or does that mean they are truly out of harm’s way?” she said.

Elizabeth Fleming, Florida representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, said she was surprised the agency had even released such preliminary results.

Some of the data — for the Sherman’s fox squirrel — would certainly draw questions if any delisting effort moves forward, she said.

“It wasn’t so much that this species came off or this one stayed on,” she said. “Most of the process lies ahead. My concern is that by having this out, it’s going to create expectations.”

FWC spokeswoman Patricia Behnke said there are a number of steps left before the agency formally proposes removing any species. The reviews will be subject to additional peer reviews and outside comment from the public and parties with vested interests such as environmentalists, farmers, developers and hunters. A management plan — with a goal of keeping the species from reaching a high risk of extinction again — also would have to be written.

The remaining preliminary reviews are expected early next month and the commission could consider staff recommendations to delist some species as early as April.

The state’s imperiled species rules have been periodically under fire for more than a decade — attacked by builders and ranchers for being too restrictive on landowners and criticized by environmentalists for not going far enough to boost declining populations of mammals, fish and fowl.

The system also was confusing to the public. The state list ranked species in three descending levels of peril from “endangered” to “threatened” to “of special concern.” The federal list used only the first two categories and the two lists did not always match up.

The FWC agency has twice before tried to overhaul its listing process. The last effort in 2008 to knock the iconic manatee down a peg from endangered was derailed after Gov. Charlie Crist, responding to a public backlash, made it clear he wanted the sea cow’s status left unchanged, even if its numbers had multiplied.

The FWC’s new approach was intended to standardize what has historically been a loose process by applying population, habitat and mortality standards employed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The one-size fits all category of “threatened” was adopted in an effort to tamp down the often emotional battles over status changes.

“People were concentrating more on what we were calling the species rather than what we were doing to protect them,” Behnke said.

With some species like the black bear, she said, managing its future is a balancing act. The state banned hunting in 1971 and the black bear’s overall population has remained fairly steady over the last decade — but it has declined in some pockets and surged in others, particularly in Central Florida where encounters with humans have become an increasing concern.

Environmentalists supported the new policy when the FWC adopted it late last year — in large part because of the promise of formal management plans for any species that merit removal from the “threatened” list.

But there is also concern that the overhaul could set the bar too high, putting off recovery plans until some species are too deep in jeopardy to have a good shot at rebounding.

The last time the FWC formally added to the list was in 2003 when it took an emergency step to designate the Miami blue butterfly when its range dwindled to one known spot in Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys.

In 2006, biologists discovered a second population in Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

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State: Letting invasive weed grow at Lake Toho could save endangered bird

But bass fishermen say hydrilla could choke boats, economy

November 11, 2010|By Jeannette Rivera-Lyles, Orlando Sentinel

KISSIMMEE — Osceola County’s (Florida, USA) vast Lake Tohopekaliga has become the setting for a clash between a state wildlife agency trying to save one of Florida’s rarest birds and fishermen worried about losing a top bass-tournament site that provides precious jobs in a struggling county.

Effective immediately and for the next two years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will discontinue its decade-long aggressive battle against the invasive weed hydrilla. The agency, with federal permission, is cutting back the lake areas that it treats by more than 60 percent to try to save the snail kite, a native bird on the federal endangered-species list. [The theory: Both Pomacea paludosa and P. insularum are essential prey for the snail kites there and hydrilla provides habitat for those apple snails.]

Fishermen fear that an uncontrolled hydrilla forest in Lake Toho would block the sunlight and kill aquatic life while inhibiting the growth of some fish. Its vines and leaves choke a boat’s engine in minutes. State officials say they must protect the bird, whose population of 700 is down from 3,000 in the mid-1990s

“Lake Toho’s vegetation is in much better shape than other habitats south of the Okeechobee, which are still recuperating from the 2006 storms and periods of severe drought,” said Paul Gray, a biologist with Audubon of Florida. “So in the last few years, we’ve seen more snail kites trying to nest there than anywhere else.”

The wildlife commission is trying to strike a balance with its plan, said Marty Mann, a fisheries biologist with the agency. “That’s not always easy, but we are trying.”

The fishermen don’t think such balance is possible if hydrilla is allowed to grow freely.

“This is an industry that pumps millions of dollars a year into Osceola and Central Florida,” said Mark Detweiler, who owns the Big Toho Marina in Kissimmee. “If significant portions of the lake can’t be accessed because of the hydrilla, we won’t be able to hold tournaments, and fisherman from all over the states and the world won’t waste their time coming here.”

Bass experts consider Lake Toho one of the top 10 bass fisheries in the nation, Detweiler and others said. Each year, dozens of local, regional and national tournaments take place on the lake, pumping millions into a stressed local economy.

“This whole thing makes me very nervous,” said Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan, an avid fisherman and former professional fishing guide. “If we can’t access the lake because these non-native species are allowed to thrive, the endangered species will soon be the Lake Toho fishermen.”

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Invasive snails threaten Erhai Lake

GoKunming

November 11, 2010

Dali’s Erhai Lake (250 km2) , Yunnan Province, China, can’t seem to catch a break. On the heels of recent positive news about improving water quality, Yunnan’s second largest lake is now facing a grave new challenge from an invasive snail species.

It was only two years ago that channeled apple snails (Pomacea canaliculata, 福寿螺) were discovered in some of the Erhai’s tributaries. But this autumn the lake is suddenly rife with the snails, which grow to a length of up to 7 centimeters.

Aside from threatening the lake’s ecology by eating aquatic plants and outcompeting other animal life, the snails also pose a danger to the area’s agricultural output—particularly its large rice crop.

The appearance of the snails is a major setback for the Dali government’s campaign to improve the lake’s health. The government only recently announced major improvements in Erhai’s water quality after a seven-year campaign with a more than 2 billion yuan (US$299 million) price tag.

Channeled apple snails eat rice plants and have been a major pest in rice paddies across southern China since they were first found in Guangdong province in 1981. The species, native to South America, has been named one of the 100 worst invasive species in the world.

Now the Dali government—short of viable options to control the snail population—has dispatched scores of fishing boats from various points around the lake to laboriously hand-collect the snails and their eggs and carry them to incinerators.

One snail can lay up to 50,000 vividly pink eggs per year. The snails attach the eggs in large clusters to the stems of aquatic plants.

“We just cleaned the eggs off this tree a few days ago,” a cleanup worker named Duan Pengju told a Kunming Information Hub reporter. “Now more have been laid; it seems impossible to get everything completely clean.”

Though it is not definitively known how they got into the lake and its tributaries, the snails have existed for some time in other areas of Yunnan and are commonly sold and consumed as food, including in Dali.

In fact, consumption of undercooked snails was responsible for an outbreak of parasitic infections in Dali in 2007 and 2008.

Aside from hand collection, other options for ridding Erhai of the snails include pesticides and the use of predators such as ducks, both of which have been deemed too damaging to other plant and animal life in the lake.

Lake management officials are hopeful that migrating birds that are beginning to arrive will provide some relief by eating the snails and their eggs. But overall it is difficult to be sanguine about the effects of the snails on Erhai and surrounding areas.

http://gokunming.com/en/blog/item/1916/invasive_snails_threaten_erhai

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Invasive snails pose threat if not eradicated

Authorities working to eradicate creatures before potential danger arises

By Mark Freeman, Mail Tribune,Southern Oregon Media Group

October 30, 2010

Wildlife authorities are waging a battle against a non-native snail found by the thousands in two White City ponds before the snails can wreak havoc among native species throughout the Agate Desert.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife crews have sprayed two Jackson County Sports Park ponds near the rifle range with copper sulfate to kill off the currently isolated and unwanted populations of Chinese mystery snails.

It marks the first time in Oregon — and possibly in the United States — that copper sulfate has been used to eradicate this species of algae-eating snails, said Rick Boatner, the ODFW’s invasive species coordinator heading the effort.

The snails can be legally purchased from aquarium stores, but it is illegal to release them into the wild.

Since the treatments earlier this month, crews have skimmed more than 27,000 dead snails from the two ponds, and crews and trained technicians will survey the pond weekly for more dead snails, Boatner said.

“That was way beyond what I was guessing and they keep dying, so we’re doing something they don’t like,” Boatner said.

Copper sulfate is an approved snailicide by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. It has been used to kill apple snails in Florida and is regularly used in Eastern states to kill snails known to carry a parasite that causes swimmer’s itch, Boatner said.

The compound has not been used on mystery snails in Oregon and Boatner found no references to copper sulfate applications for Chinese mystery snail populations elsewhere.

“What we’re doing is totally experimental,” Boatner said.

Based on EPA guidelines, crews applied 13 pounds of copper sulfate to one pond and 44 pounds during two applications at a larger and deeper pond, Boatner said.

Jackson County officials posted signs warning people of the application for the EPA-required 48 hours to allow the chemical to dissipate.

Both ponds are on county land just south of Kershaw Road.

Despite the treatments, a snail trap in one of the ponds has captured live snails that survived, said Martyne Reesman, an aquatic invasive species technician who is working on the project.

“They haven’t been 100 percent eradicated, but at least we’re having good success,” Reesman said.

Reesman and fellow technician Becky Hill spent much of Thursday afternoon at the ponds collecting dead snails, which measure up to 21/2 inches wide.

“My fear right now is that they are going to burrow into the substrate to hibernate,” Boatner said. “If many survive, it could start the population all over again.”

The snails are known to carry parasites and diseases that can harm people. And the snails are just one wading dog or swimming kid away from hitchhiking to some other waterway in the Rogue River Basin.

Cipangopaludina chinensis, as they are known by scientists, are somewhat commonly found in aquariums or outdoor water features because they eat algae. They currently are legal to sell in pet stores, but the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is poised at its December meeting to add them to the list of hundreds of exotics that are illegal to possess or sell here.

Oregonians with mystery snails currently in their aquariums will be allowed to keep them, but they will be banned from selling, trading or transporting them, Boatner said.

Mystery snails contain a trapdoor-like feature called an operculum that allows them to effectively seal themselves off against predators.

They likely found their way into the Sports Park ponds when someone dumped the contents of an aquarium or backyard fish pond, Boatner said.

Technicians have found three large koi fish, the largest weighing 11 pounds, in the ponds as well, Boatner said.

A local angler found the snails last year and delivered samples to ODFW biologists in Central Point, but they were not positively identified until this summer.

Since then, Chinese mystery snail shells have been found in Lost River near Klamath Falls, Crane Prairie Reservoir and Big Butte Pond near Bend, Boatner said.

Future treatments for snails throughout Oregon will be handled on a case-by-case basis, he said.

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Lake Toho Hydrilla Treatment Undergoing Changes

World Fishing Network Ltd

October 27, 2010

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will hold a public meeting to discuss the changes for hydrilla management on Lake Toho for the winter of 2010-2011. The meeting will be Friday, Nov. 5, from 6-8 p.m., at the Osceola County Commission Chambers in the Administrative Building at 1 Courthouse Square, Kissimmee.

Staff from both the FWC and the USFWS will present information on the upcoming hydrilla treatment plan to manage the nonnative plant. A preview of the evening’s public meeting will be offered in the same location from 3-4 p.m. for government officials interested in the topic.

“Lake Toho contains large amounts of hydrilla, which can cause navigation problems and limit access to boaters,” said Bill Caton, the FWC’s Invasive Plant Section leader. “This plant also provides an abundant food source and habitat used by a nonnative species of apple snail that lives in the lake.”

The snail is eaten by the (Everglades) snail kite, one of the most endangered birds in Florida, making Lake Toho one of the few areas in the state where kites can still find plenty of food. As a result, the FWC and the USFWS will change how, when and where hydrilla is controlled on the lake so that enough snails will be available when kites start nesting in the early spring.

This coming winter, the agencies will take an extra-cautious approach when controlling hydrilla to help the kites recover from a severe winter last year. The FWC and the USFWS are attempting to balance the needs of this endangered species with the needs of the people who use this lake. The meeting will provide information on how this plan is expected to affect hydrilla growth through the summer of 2011.

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Apple snails are slowly creeping our way: an editorial

Published: Saturday, October 23, 2010, 6:45 AM

Editorial page staff, The Times-Picayune

An apple snail sounds like a benign creature, almost cute. But names can be deceiving

This latest invasive species to arrive in Louisiana poses a threat to aquatic vegetation and consequently to fish and other organisms. It wiped out rice production in the Philippines, where it had been introduced by entrepreneurs.

Now, the apple snail, a native of South America, has been spotted in canals and ditches along Barriere Road in Belle Chasse and as far south as Jesuit Bend, according to Plaquemines Parish officials.

The creature is the world’s largest freshwater snail — as big as a person’s hand — and has an appetite to match. Because of its size and ability to reproduce, laying egg masses of 200 to 600 bright pink eggs, it can out-compete native species for food.

The snail likely arrived in local waters because careless aquarium owners dumped out the contents of their tanks. It also will take people to get rid of these interlopers. Parish officials are urging people to scoop up any apple snails they spot, put them in plastic bags and throw them into the trash. Anyone who spots an egg mass, which snails lay above the waterline, should smash the eggs and scrape them into the body of water.

There’s no danger in handling the snails, according to health officials, but they advised wearing gloves and washing up afterward.

They also urged people not to consume the snails raw, as they carry a dangerous parasite, the rat lungworm — a gruesome name for sure. While it’s hard to imagine anyone snacking on a raw apple snail, adventurous eaters should consider themselves warned.

The greater danger isn’t that people will eat snail tartar but that the snails will gorge themselves on Louisiana vegetation, creating yet another threat to a fragile environment that’s been pounded by storms and the BP oil spill.

“We should not tolerate another invasive species, which can damage our ecosystem,” said Parish President Billy Nungesser. “It is important that we, as a community, act quickly.”
It’s also important for people to behave more responsibly. Dumping specimens from an aquarium, whether it’s the apple snail or the northern snakehead, is a reckless act that can have serious consequences.

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Giant snail concerns Plaquemines officials

by WWLTV.com

wwltv.com

Posted on October 20, 2010 at 3:09 PM

BELLE CHASSE, La. – Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is asking for the public’s help in ridding the parish of a species of large snails that can chew up plant material in large quantities.

Nungesser said the apple snail, which can be up to the size of a man’s fist, has been found in canals and ditches along Barriere Road in Belle Chasse and as far south as Jesuit Bend.

Nungesser is concerned about another attack on the parish’s eco system, which has suffered from hurricanes in recent years and this year’s oil spill.

“We should not tolerate another invasive species which can damage our ecosystem,” he said. “It is important that we, as a community, act quickly.”

Nungesser said anyone who sees an apple snail should put it in a plastic bag and throw it in the garbage. Anyone who comes across a cluster of eggs is asked to smash the cluster and drop it into the water.

The clusters could be between 200-600 eggs.

The Parish said it reported the snail sightings to the Louisiana Department of Wildllfie and Fisheries and the Barataria Terrebone National Estuary Program who track the snails.

Snails should not be consumed in their raw form as they can transmit disease, most notably the rat lungworm.  The rat lungworm is a deadly parasite which can be transmitted to both humans and other animals.  There is no risk, however, from handling the bright, pink egg sacks or the apple snails, but the Parish Health Department encourages residents to wear gloves while doing so and to make sure to wash your hands afterward.

Anyone with questions regarding apple snails or if anyone has seen them beyond the Belle Chasse area in Plaquemines Parish, please call the Plaquemines Parish Health Department, at 504-394-3510.

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Watch what you eat

By ANDREW SIA
startwo@thestar.com.my

Monday October 18, 2010

Areas which grow padi may be prone to having more lelaki lembut (effeminate men).

According to Hatijah Hashim, a senior research officer at the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), their survey has found that padi farmers in various parts of Kedah openly admit to spraying their crops with endosulfan, an endocrine disrupter which has been banned in Malaysia since 2005.

“The pesticide can be easily bought from shops selling agricultural chemicals, for RM32 in an unlabelled one-litre bottle. It is generally called racun Cina (Chinese poison) as the packaging only has Chinese characters,” she says.

“Farmers use it to get rid of the golden apple snail (siput gondang emas) which feeds on padi and saplings. It takes only 15 minutes to kill the snails compared to two weeks with other pesticides.”

However, a few weeks after spraying endosulfan, farmers often suffer from skin problems and weak joints.

“There are safer ways,” says Hatijah, “For example, ducks reared in padi fields will feed on the snails.”

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Snail salad

Felix Chaudhary, Figi Times Online
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

THE discovery of a harmful species of snail in food sold by a popular barbecue outlet in Suva has prompted researchers at the University of the South Pacific to issue a strong and urgent warning about vegetable preparation.

According to Reshma Lal, a research assistant at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, foodsellers and the public need to be aware of the dangers posed by introduced species of snails which have the potential to pose serious health risks if ingested.

One such species ù Bradybeana similaris, also referred to as the Asian tramp snail ù has been found to serve as host for trematode, an infection which can invade the digestive system and liver, whose symptoms include diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

“This particular species is an agricultural pest which can be found feeding on farm produce such as Chinese cabbage, flowering cabbages and beans.

The recent discovery of a living species in the salad sold with a barbecue serve at a popular spot in Suva highlights the reality of the potential for future health problems.

“This issue needs to be taken very seriously because many families, communities and resorts are now being actively encouraged to grow their own salad vegetables,” she said.

Ms Lal said Bradybeana similaris was a fully shelled land snail with a pale rounded shell measuring up to 14mm in diameter.

Another alien species of snail with the potential to cause serious health risks is the semi-slug Parmarion martensis which is an elongated slug with a much reduced shell.

The species varies in colour from pale grey to very dark brown and is often found in trees or on the ground feeding on lettuce, pawpaw, hibiscus or decaying vegetables.

“It can serve as a high-risk vector for rat lungworm ù a parasitic worm that lives in the hearts of rats and is transmitted to humans via this species.

“Once ingested or if a vegetable which has slime from this species is ingested, it has the potential to cause eosinophilic meningitis in humans.

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Roundup nets hundreds of snakes

By Donna Littlejohn, Staff Writer

Contra Costa Times

Posted: 09/26/2010

Don’t worry. Those swarms of black water snakes slithering along the murky bottom of Machado Lake, Los Angeles, California aren’t venomous. They do, however, have rather foul dispositions. And they bite.

Sold for as little as $10 on the black market, the snakes are a lure for teen boys. But they make lousy pets. And that is likely why so many of them wind up dumped into the storm runoff lake in Harbor City.

Over the past few months, a team of wildlife biologists have paddled back and forth across the polluted waters, sometimes slogging through the shallow spots on foot, on a mission to trap and pull as many of the non-native snakes, now illegal in California, from the water as they can. The final catch: 250 to 350 snakes.

But that’s only about 10 percent of the water snake population estimated to be living in the lake, said Robert Reed, the research wildlife biologist from Colorado who headed up the effort that ended this month. And the captured snakes – which range in size from 1 foot to 4 feet long and are scientifically known as Nerodia fasciata – aren’t the only problem.

The lake and surrounding park are teeming with invasive, non-native species. “This lake is a dumping ground for everything you can imagine,” Reed said. “Ecologically, it’s a mess.” Normally, the non-native water snakes would be seen as a threat because they devour native animals. But that’s not the case at Machado, where nothing seems to be indigenous anymore.

“There’s not a whole lot they can hurt,” said Martin Byhower, who assisted Reed in the snake capture and has led nature walks in the park for some 25 years. “The bottom line is, the problem of invasive species is massive.”

During his work in the lake, Reed frequently saw the colorful granules that line aquariums along the shoreside, the remnants of some of the many animal dumpings that take place at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park.

Snapping turtles are found in the lake, as are red-eared slider turtles and other varieties, along with koi and goldfish, which are often released at the park in ceremonial rites common among some Asian cultures.

A wedding party was seen one day releasing decorated turtles and bags of goldfish into the lake for good luck.

The most famous animal dumped – Reggie, a 6-foot-long alligator – took two years to catch and now resides at the Los Angeles Zoo.

More recently, Byhower and Reed said parkgoers have claimed to see a large – perhaps 15-foot-long – python. But Reed said he saw no evidence of such an animal.

Whatever winds up in that lake, there’s plenty to eat. All of the snakes, Reed said, “are just ridiculously fat. … They’re living high on the hog.”

In and around the lake, the bullfrog population has exploded, Reed said, noting that there are literally “tens of thousands” of them. The water snakes they trapped and bagged often would regurgitate huge bullfrogs and tadpoles, Reed said.

None of the frogs they saw was native to California, he said.

The lake also is home to non-native apple snails and crayfish, and in the park around it there are multitudes of skunks, raccoons, feral cats, geese and ducks.

“The skunk numbers are through the roof,” Reed said. “I saw as many as 11 in one night.”

Reed’s project – a trial control program funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – isn’t connected to a much-anticipated clean-water effort about to begin at the 231-acre park and lake early next year.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_16175819

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Agusan Marsh’s Natural Beauty

By Charlie A. Agatep, Manilla Bulletin

September 22, 2010, 6:43pm

While preparing an adventure to Agusan Marsh, Dr. Jurgenne H. Primavera, scientist emerita and a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation under the US-based Pew Environment Group, sent me this text: “You’ll be enchanted by the wildlife, the swamp forests and the numerous shallow lakes and ponds. The Marsh is lovely beyond any singing of it,” she said, paraphrasing Alan Paton in Cry, The Beloved Country.

And sure enough, the Marsh did not disappoint. She was a beauty to behold, even more exotic and colorful than all the postcard photographs and video footages that friends had shown me earlier.

To get to the Marsh from Butuan City, we spent one and a half hours by jeep to Talacogon, three hours by pump boat from Talacogon to Gibong, and one half hour by banca to the Marsh. Despite the long travel, the escapade was exciting.

Agusan Marsh is a vast complex of freshwater swamp forests covering 110,000 hectares with declared protected area of some 44,000 hectares. The Marsh acts like a giant sponge that soaks up rain water flowing from the mountains, rivers, creeks and streams of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley, protecting downstream towns and Butuan City from catastrophic floods.

The Marsh is one of the most ecologically significant wetland ecosystems in the Philippines. In view of its aesthetic, ecological and economic importance, and to further strengthen its status as a protected area, it is being considered for nomination by the government to the UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage.

Probably the largest wetland in Asia, Agusan Marsh is a wildlife sanctuary with great natural beauty. According to Dr. Primavera, it is home to a diverse ecosystem of rare flowering plants and vegetation, more than 17 fish species, and some 200 species of endemic, threatened and migratory birds. Thousands of birds like the purple heron migrate from Japan, China and Russia and come to the Marsh to escape winter in those regions.

But there are human activities that threaten the ecological balance of the Marsh. Foremost are the small scale miners in Diwalwal, Compostela Valley, who use mercury to separate gold from the mined ore. Some 300,000 tons of mine tailings are reportedly discharged annually from the creeks around Diwalwal and flow onto the Agusan River, leading to mercury pollution in the Marsh.

There are also small settlers in the Marsh who continue to drain marginal areas for conversion to rice fields, fruit orchards and palm oil plantations. And there are illegal logging operations by small scale companies who cut trees outside their legally approved areas.

Invasive species of fish, such as the Janitor fish and golden apple snail, are being introduced deliberately or accidentally by the Manobo tribes who rely on fish production for food and income. These may be displacing native <<?!>> Marsh species such as the African catfish, Nile tilapia, and the common carp.

We agree with Prof. Marcelino Tumanda, Jr. of Mindanao State University who said: “In view of these threats to the Marsh ecosystem, the government should enforce its protected status. Development projects and existing exploitation permits in the area should be reviewed by concerned national and local government agencies considering the impact of these activities on this natural heritage.”

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/278466/agusan-marsh-s-natural-beauty

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Invasive species of snail appears to be in retreat in Mobile

By Daniela Werner, Mobile Press-Register, August 02, 2010

Efforts to eradicate invasive Amazonian apple snails from Langan Municipal Park and a stretch of Three Mile Creek are finally succeeding, according to Ben Ricks, a state biologist. “Just from being out there and knowing how many snails we had this time last year, it’s really encouraging,” he said. “We never thought we’d wave a magic wand,” Ricks said, but “it’s going just the way we hoped.” Not only are the snails fewer in number, but they haven’t populated beyond the west Mobile park and the creek, according to Ricks.

It will take about $65,000 to stave off the shelled intruders, according to David Armstrong, a district fisheries supervisor with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Chemicals, equipment and fuel have cost about $30,000 so far, he said. Another $35,000 in federal wildlife grant money is set to cover next year’s snail eradication work. Experts believe that baseball-sized Amazonian snails were released at Langan Park after outgrowing a home aquarium, Armstrong said.

They discovered the snails and their nuclear, bubble gum-pink egg masses at the park late in the summer of 2008. The snails quickly populated the two Langan lakes and spread down Three Mile Creek to near the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center, and threatening to move into the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
The snails have been shown to consume 95 percent of some natural systems’ aquatic vegetation. If they invaded the Delta, they would devastate important wetland plants as they rapidly reproduced, leaving behind murky water rife with algae.

Government regulations allow the snails’ importation and sale, but bar their release, Armstrong said. He added that he hopes to see bans imposed on bringing the snails into the country. Last fall, biologists experienced significant progress in their fight against the snails. Herbicide was used to kill the plants on which the snails were laying their eggs. “The city of Mobile liked it because it helped the lake aesthetically, too,” Armstrong said. The city also cleaned drainage ducts at Langan, thus lowering water levels and reducing snail numbers, according to Armstrong.

Also, crews applied thousands of pounds of an Environmental Protection Agency-approved copper sulfate treatment, which diminished the adult snail population but didn’t hurt other aquatic life.

To date, about four tons of copper sulfate has been used to kill the snails, according to Armstrong. The state stocked the snail-infested waters last winter with Alabama-native redear sunfish, whose jaws earn them nicknames like “shellcrackers.” Armstrong said the sunfish stocking was a “good thing” because they eat young snails.

Volunteers have spent between 350 and 450 hours scraping up snail egg masses and freezing them, killing the new snails inside. Armstrong said that the state will continue the herbicide, copper sulfate and egg-removal volunteer efforts.”We can’t stop monitoring,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to stay with it as long as we can.”

[Forty-five of the Snail Busters Traps are now being used at Langan Pond: “Thanks for all your technical assistance with the snail control efforts in Alabama. Your traps work like a charm!” – Andy Ford, USFWS]

Image and video of snail trap:

http://blog.al.com/live/2010/08/invasive_species_of_snail_appe.html

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Slimy snails invade lake at Norton Park

By Bob Downing, Beacon Journal staff writer, Jul 29, 2010

Snails are threatening to take over a 50-acre lake at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton. Keith Shy, the director-secretary of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, said Silver Creek Lake is filled with ”millions” of the crab-apple-sized or quarter-sized snails. The culprit is the Japanese trapdoor snail, an algae-eating species that probably was dumped from an aquarium into the lake years ago. ”Quite frankly, the numbers exploded this year,” said Michael Johnson, manager of resource management for the park district. The reason why remains unclear.

The snails have been in the lake in small numbers for several years but did not present a problem, Johnson said. The park district has made no attempt to quantify or even estimate the number of snails in the lake this year, he said, ”but it’s a lot.” The park district has removed plants growing in the lake for the first time and has stocked two kinds of fish as bio-controls to reduce the snail population, although that will take some time, Johnson said.

The snails are a nuisance for swimmers at the beach at Silver Creek, but Johnson said they are not any health or ecological concern. The swimming area remains open and there have been no closures, he said. There is no problem with snails at the park district’s other swimming area, at Munroe Falls Metro Park. The lake there is lowered each winter — disrupting plant growth.

Johnson said snails washed ashore could be painful if stepped on or if the brownish-yellow shells break. Park officials are not aware of any snail-related injuries at Silver Creek. Park staffers have been raking the sand to remove dead snails that have washed ashore, he said, but have not attempted to collect snails from the lake water. Park officials became aware of the issue in mid-June after winds from thunderstorms washed lines of dead snails ashore, Johnson said.

He said that one step the park district took to combat the snails was renting a floating weed harvester. It removed large volumes of watermilfoil, a bottom-rooted plant that has been dominating the lake. Several native plant species were also removed, Johnson said. The park district also restocked the lake with 100 weed-eating white amurs. Such fish previously were stocked in Silver Creek Lake but might have died out in a mysterious fish kill in early 2008. In addition, the park stocked Silver Creek Lake with 3,000 red-eared sunfish, a species that will eat the snails, Johnson said. Purchasing the white amurs and sunfish cost about $3,000, he estimated.

The Asian snail and its relatives are known by several other names: the Japanese/Chinese/Oriental mystery snail and the Japanese black snail, and the names are interchangeable, according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Geological Survey. The Asian snails can be purchased for as little as $3. Internet sites advise that one snail can clean up algae from 3 cubic feet of an aquarium or that 200 are needed for a typical farm pond. The Asian snails are the top choice of water gardeners.

One species of the Japanese trapdoor snail has been found at 14 sites in Ohio and a second closely related species has been found at 39 locations, said Jack Freda of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Such Asian snails have been found in Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. They were heavily stocked in Sandusky Bay in the 1940s to provide food for channel catfish.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.

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Better than snail’s pace

Proteomics, July 1, 2010

Stem cells are the stuff of dreams. They can transform into any other type of tissue in the body and that has made them the subject of intense debate between scientists and pro-life advocates. Embryos are thought to hold cures for a plethora of diseases, including genetic disorders, cancer and immune disorders. Embryos are also used in other fields of basic research such as cell signalling, as well as applied research areas such as the aquaculture industry where animal embryos are being developed as monitors for environmental pollution. To this end, gastropod embryos have attracted attention but their growth and development is complex, taking them through several unique phases. These changes include reorganisation of the mantle cavity, visceral mass and some organs in a process known as torsion. Subsequent shell formation requires changes in body shape and the deposition of minerals and pigments within a protein matrix. A third change is head-foot differentiation. Although these growing transformations are well-documented, the genetic and proteomic changes that occur along the way are less clear. There must be many genes involved to initiate and control the various stages. The gene expression pattern will be reflected in the proteomic profile but there have been no reported proteomics studies of gastropod embryos, say Taiwanese researchers. So, Jian-Wen Qiu and Jin Sun from the Hong Kong Baptist University, Yu Zhang and Pei-Yuan Qian from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Vengatesen Thiyagarajan from the University of Hong Kong, undertook a study of the channelled apple snail, Pomacea canaliculata. This snail is native to South America but has been found in other continents, where it is becoming a problem as a rice pest. The reproductive season of P. canaliculata extends up to 10 months and each female can lay up to 8000-9000 eggs in that time. For the Taiwanese study, this ensured a plentiful supply of embryos for study. They concentrated on the transition from stage II to stage III. In the former, head-foot differentiation is incomplete, the foregut and midgut are being connected and the mantle is just being formed. In stage III, most of the external and internal organs are fully formed and the embryo has a complete but non-pigmented shell and an operculum, the small lid that closes the shell opening when the snail retracts its soft parts. It took 5 and 9 days, respectively, for fertilised eggs to develop into stage II and III. The proteins were extracted from the embryos at each stage and separated by 2D gel electrophoresis. A total of 718 and 635 protein spots were observed for stage II and III, respectively and the most abundant 125 that were present in all of the replicate samples were selected for analysis by MALDI MS/MS following in-gel digestion with trypsin. Due to a dearth of genomic and proteomic data on gastropods, the proteins were identified by cross-species de novo sequencing using the NCBI non-redundant database. Proteins that were not identified this way were subjected to LC-electrospray tandem MS of the tryptic digest using the MSDB database, using MASCOT and MS-BLAST searching. A total of 65 proteins from the 125 were identified. They included 6 that appeared only in stage II, 1 only in stage III, 2 spots that were up-regulated, 6 that were down-regulated and 50 that did not show significant differences in expression level. Of the 15 differentially expressed proteins, 5 were recognised as housekeeping proteins but the remainder had other functions. Some of the unidentified proteins could be gene products that are specific to gastropods in general or P. canaliculata in particular. The 65 were placed into 11 functional groups, many being related to energy, metabolism, transcription, protein synthesis and protein modification. The perceived functions of several were discussed by the researchers. Proteins found in stage I but not stage II included proliferating cell nuclear antigen and putative septin 10 (both involved in cell cycle and DNA processing), actin-related protein 3 (biogenesis of cellular components), dihydrolipamide S-acetyltransferase (energy) and ERp 57 (protein fate). Conversely, the protein found solely in stage III was cytoplasmic intermediate filament protein, involved in cellular biogenesis. The results of this study will form the basis of future proteomics investigations covering various aspects of snail life, such as their responses to environmental stress and their interactions with parasites. The de novo sequences could also be used to gain a better understanding of the functions of novel genes using cloning and expression studies.

 http://www.spectroscopynow.com/coi/cda/detail.cda?id=23854&type=Feature&chId=10&page=

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Climate Change To Hit Vietnam’s Mangrove Forests

Bernama.com on May 24, 2010

HO CHI MINH CITY, May 24 (Bernama) — The impacts of climate change would severely affect the biodiversity of mangrove forests across the country, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported experts as saying.

Addressing a forum on the impacts of climate change and biodiversity held on May 22, Dr Hoang Nghia Son, director of the Institute of Tropical Biology said that biodiversity was a crucial base for the existence and development of countries around the world but it had been severely affected by climate change.

“Sea levels are expected to rise 1m by the end of this century which will flood up to 12 percent of Vietnam ,” VNA quoted him as saying.

“Coastal wetlands will be heavily affected, especially in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta provinces of Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau, home to many important wetland areas.

“Eight national parks and 11 nature reserves will be flooded, killing many species of flora and fauna,” Son warned.

Dr Le Anh Tuan of Can Tho University’s Natural Resources and Environment Department said rising temperatures and sea levels as well as irregular rainfall and a large number of storms and whirlwinds damaged the biodiversity of wetland areas.

“An increase in temperature will cause hundreds of trees to die and increase the threat of forest fires and slow the growth of flora. Fluctuating rainfall will change the biological cycles of flora and fauna and alternate natural flows as well.

“In addition, rising sea levels will mess with the ecosystem and threaten flora through salination, erosion and high tides. “Storms and whirlwinds will devastate coastal zones, destroying forests, degrading water quality and killing species of flora and fauna,” Tuan emphasised.

Tram Chim National Park, an endemic park of cajeput trees and birds in the Cuu Long Delta, has recently experienced the impacts of climate change. Nguyen Van Hung, Director of the park, said they were having to fight the spread of harmful species including apple snails and mimosa pigra, along with changes in temperature and rainfall.

“We have seen a decrease in crane numbers due to a lack of tubers called nang, which the crane feed upon, which were destroyed by floods last year. This year, we are faced with severe drought and the risk of forest fires this summer,” he said.

Dr Le Van Hue from Vietnam National University in Hanoi and Norwegian NGO Tropenbos International in Vietnam said evidence of climate change had become apparent.

“Climate change has discernibly affected plant and animal populations in recent decades,” she said. Experts believe that work to protect biodiversity must be undertaken by the whole society.

Tuan recommended that the National Assembly form new laws on climate change to encourage contributions from decision makers, local authorities, scientists and environmentalists at a grassroots level.

“Every province should have a committee for provincial climate change adaptation to co-ordinate the actions of NGOs, scientists and local authorities and to create a network for information exchange,” he said.

Dr Vu Ngoc Long, the Institute of Tropical Biology ‘s deputy director and director of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Centre of Biodiversity and Development (CBD) said the call and efforts by scientists through the co-ordination of CBD has drawn the attention of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

He believed the invitation to become a member of the organising board of the Asean exhibition on Biology to be held in August on the sidelines of the 21st Meeting of Asean Senior Officials on the Environment was a chance for co-operation.

The ministry’s National General Department of Environment will take charge of organising the exhibition.

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Scientist on foreign snail’s trail

By BRUCE HOLLOWAY – Waikato Times, New Zealand

Last updated 05:00 15/05/2010

An Environment Waikato boffin has discovered a potentially destructive South American snail in the Waikato River.

And it has prompted him to come out of his shell and warn aquarium owners not to be sluggish with their maintenance, particularly over where they empty the contents of fish tanks.

Environment Waikato freshwater scientist Kevin Collier recently found a lone apple snail in the Waikato River at Swarbrick’s Landing, off River Rd, in Hamilton.

The snail, a native of the Amazon River, is sold in pet shops as a fish aquarium accessory and is not regarded as a pest in New Zealand.

However, “escapes” into the wild in various countries have created problems in river systems, wetlands and lakes, because apple snails can be voracious plant eaters, and potentially destroy food and habitat for native species.

Dr Collier said while conditions there were not ideal for this species, and further sampling has not turned up any more snails, there are other places in the Waikato where it might be able establish populations.

“I would encourage people not to throw snails or other aquarium contents into waterways, lakes or wetlands as there is the possibility the apple snail and some other aquarium species could get established in warmer areas and increase the risks faced by native life,” Dr Collier said.

“Besides damaging underwater habitat and areas of shelter areas for aquatic life, apple snails can also eat eggs of native animals and compete with species that feed on decaying plants.”

UPDATE: Hi Jess – Thanks for your interest and for the web site link which looks really helpful. Yes, we found what we think is a specimen of Pomacea bridgesii.  Hopefully, it was an isolated incident and a serendipitous find. It was in a city near an easy access point which would be a prime place to empty a fish tank contents. This part of the Waikato River may not be warm enough for it to breed from what I can make out, but there are parts of the river where discharges cause temperatures of 25C and temperature does not fall below about 12C in winter. Thanks again, Kevin C.

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Rat lungworm fear after slug-eating dare

GLENDA KWEK

May 13, 2010

http://www.theage.com.au

More details emerged this afternoon of the curious case of the young Sydney man who reportedly became severely ill after a dare to eat a slug.

A man who said he was a relative of the 21-year-old contacted Fairfax Media this afternoon to say the young man had been in a north Sydney hospital for almost a month.

“He was in the ICU unit for a period of time,” said the family member, who asked not to be identified and who would not identify his sick relative.

He said doctors had told the family his relative might have contracted rat lungworm parasitic disease from the slug.

Slugs such as the giant African snail can infect humans with bacteria, viruses and parasites – usually the rat lungworm, or Angiostrongylus parasite, NSW Health said.

The department’s director of communicable diseases, Jeremy McAnulty, said in a statement today that people should not eat raw slugs or snails and should wash their hands after touching them.

“It is also important to thoroughly wash and cook any produce that could be contaminated by animals,” he said.

“In the past, this sometimes has happened after a person has been dared to eat a slug or snail.”

Symptoms of the non-infectious disease, while rare or short-lived, include “meningitis with headache, stiff neck, tingling or pain in the skin, fever, nausea, and vomiting”, Dr McAnulty said.

“Even if infected, most people recover fully without treatment. However, it can sometimes cause severe meningitis. Because humans are not the natural host of the parasite, the parasite eventually dies without treatment.”

The family member said doctors told him the man was expected to recover

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Fish tank owners are being warned to be careful where they empty them after a destructive South American snail was found in the Waikato River.

By Radio New Zealand

The Apple Snail, a voracious plant eater that can destroy underwater habitat and eat eggs of native species, was found by chance.

The Waikato Regional Council says conditions were not ideal for the snail and river have failed to find any more.

At present, the Apple Snail is not regarded as a pest in New Zealand.

The council says people are encouraged not to throw snails or other contents of aquariums into waterways, as it is possible non-native species could get established in warmers areas and increase the risks faced by native life.

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Editorial: Go all out to exterminate Amazonian apple snails

By Press-Register Editorial Board

April 21, 2010, 5:15AM

The Amazonian apple snails have advanced almost to the Telegraph Road bridge over Three Mile Creek. This means war. The Press-Register found masses of bubble-gum pink snail eggs last week about a mile from the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Scientists and environmentalists fear that if they get loose in the Delta, they’ll treat the native aquatic plants like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with devastating results for the vital wetlands and habitat.

Although Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Fisheries claims to be ready to go after them, the snails are already on the march. It’s bad enough that they got into Three Mile Creek in the first place, because it’s going to be much harder to exterminate them.

Thought to have been dropped in the pond at Langan Municipal Park by someone who no longer wanted them in a home aquarium, the South American native snails have already proven their liking for rice grown in south Asia and native plants in Louisiana and Texas.

So far, a combination of state and city officials as well as volunteers have tried picking them up in massive snail sweeps, poisoning them with low doses of copper sulfate in the pond and introducing some 14,000 redear fish into the pond to eat the babies. Those attacks helped reduce the snail population, but did not eradicate it. And the snails didn’t die off during this year’s colder-than-normal winter; they apparently just burrowed into the mud.

It’s time for Wildlife and Fisheries officials to take more drastic measures. If they have to poison all of Langan pond and Three Mile Creek to wipe out every single swimming or clinging creature in it, that’s what they should do. Better to have to restore and restock the pond and the creek than to risk the apple snails eating the Delta.

Local colleges and universities could assist in the process of restoring the local bodies of water. Students in subjects like marine and enviromental science could get excellent practical experience.

If the snails get loose in the Delta, the Delta may never be the same. And that would be an environmental tragedy for the whole region. Do whatever it takes, but stop those snails at the Telegraph Road Bridge.

http://blog.al.com/press-register-commentary/2010/04/editorial_go_all_out_to_exterminate_amazonian_apple_snails.html

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They’re back! Amazonian snails reappear in Mobile’s Langan Park and Three Mike Creek

By Ben Raines, Press Register

April 18, 2010, 7:34AM

MOBILE, Ala. — The telltale masses of pink eggs appearing around the water’s edge mean Amazonian apple snails have emerged from their winter hibernation in the muck at the bottom of Langan Pond and Three Mile Creek in Mobile.

Egg masses found in the creek near the Telegraph Road bridge suggest a reproducing population of the snails has gained a foothold about a mile from the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Since they were discovered in Langan Pond two years ago, the primary concern has been that the snails could invade the Delta and gobble up aquatic plants there.

“We knew they’d be back. Luckily, this year we have the funding and the manpower all lined up to get after them right away,” said Ben Ricks, a biologist with the state Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office at the Five Rivers Center on the Causeway.

The snails, which grow to about the size of a child’s fist, were likely dumped in the pond after they had grown too large for a home aquarium, officials have said. Known for destroying rice crops in South Asia and devouring native water plants in Texas and Louisiana, the snails are notoriously hard to exterminate once established.

Last year, city and state officials teamed up in an effort to wipe out the snails by treating the pond and creek with a weak copper sulfate solution, which is poisonous to snails but not other aquatic creatures, such as fish and amphibians. At the time, biologists said it was unlikely that the first round of treatments would eradicate the snails.

As predicted, dozens of crusty bubble gum-colored egg clumps were visible last week clinging to concrete bulkheads at the edge of the pond. Ricks said that the snails had likely been active for several weeks due to high water temperatures in the shallow pond.

Snails in the lower stretches of Three Mile Creek, where water temperatures are still

much lower, probably became active within the last week, Ricks said.

Rob Nykvist, a member of the Mobile Bay Canoe and Kayak Club, told the Press-Register that he spotted an egg mass April 11 while in a narrow slough on the north side of Three Mile Creek and west of Telegraph Road. A follow-up inspection by the Press-Register found egg masses in another slough on the south side of the creek, closer to Telegraph Road.

“We weren’t sure if they’d survive in the creek, but it looks like they’re about where we saw them last year,” Ricks said.

Ricks said the snails remained active in the pond at Langan Municipal Park virtually all winter, apparently hibernating in the mud for just a few days during the coldest weather. Traps checked weekly by the University of South Alabama averaged from 20 to 50 snails per week, he said.

“Basically, they hibernated those few days that it was cold enough you had to break the ice on the water,” Ricks said. “Otherwise, they were active. That surprised us.”

He said that most of the vegetation around the pond was removed to reduce breeding sites for the snails. The water level was also lowered, which reduced the areas available for egg laying. He said that low levels of copper sulfate would again be applied to the lake and the creek to kill snails.

“We want to make sure the snails are all active before we start treating. We’re looking at starting up in May. I’ll be out there doing some spraying to manage vegetation around the edge of the lake before that,” Ricks said. “In the creek, we are going to focus on the areas where we saw the most snails. That means the area around Martin Luther King Boulevard and the hospital. That’s where we had the largest population.”

http://blog.al.com/live/2010/04/theyre_back_amazonian_snails_r.html

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Amazonian apple snails are back in Mobile ponds, creeks and threaten delta

By Associated Press, April 18, 2010

Egg masses found in Three Mile Creek near the Telegraph Road bridge suggest a reproducing population of the snails has gained a foothold about a mile from the delta and its aquatic plants.

The snails grow to about the size of a child’s fist. Officials told the Mobile Press-Register they were likely dumped in a local pond after they had grown too large for a home aquarium, officials have said. The snails are known for destroying rice crops in South Asia and devouring native water plants in Texas and Louisiana.

http://www.whnt.com/news/sns-ap-al–peskysnails,0,2278817.story

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Watch where you step . . . ‘alien’ creatures abound

by Phil Lewis of NaplesNews.com

March 27, 2010

Rogue pythons slithering through Southwest Florida underbrush have earned the most headlines recently, but that’s not the only alien predator we need to worry about.

Or, so says the South Florida Water Management District.

In written testimony this past week to Congress, a water management district official ticked off a fascinating list of dangers lurking or flying or swimming out there.

The one that grabbed most of my attention when a copy of the testimony passed by the editor’s desk wasn’t a snake, but a lizard — a big, fast, meat-eating lizard.

“The African Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) is now established in a 20-square-mile area around Cape Coral and the Homestead area in southeastern Florida,” Dan Thayer told the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “This carnivorous lizard grows to seven feet and is highly aquatic, climbs well and runs very quickly.”

Thayer, who is director of vegetation and land management for our water district, said the lizards are lethal to native Florida species that burrow. They are voracious egg eaters, threatening both burrowing owls and gopher tortoises.

Like most of the alien predators listed by Thayer, the huge monitor lizards came to our state as pets. Between 2000 and 2004, more than 60,000 African Nile monitors were imported through Florida ports. Some escaped from their owners or were released. In Cape Coral and Homestead, at least two lizards of the opposite sex have gotten together.

Florida law now restricts the buying and selling of the world’s five largest non-venomous snakes as well as the monitor lizard. The law also requires owners of such reptiles to pay a $100 fee and to implant a microchip in each animal. The chips are used to track any animal that escapes.

Besides the African Nile monitor and the Burmese python — the water district and other agencies have rounded up 1,300 of the snakes in the last 10 years — the green iguana, the spiny-tailed iguana, the South American apple snail and the Monk parakeet made Thayer’s list of rogues.

The green iguana digs burrows in the Florida landscape and can undermine canal banks and levees and its spiny-tailed cousin feeds on gopher tortoises.

The South American snails are displacing the native Florida snails that are the main food supply for the Everglades snail kite. The alien snails are larger, heavier and stronger than the native snails, Thayer explained, and young kites have trouble lifting and cracking them. Starvation is the result.

The parakeets — there’s at least one flock in Naples — are also from South America and are now firmly established in South Florida. Thayer’s testimony put the number as high as 150,000 birds. He said they breed rapidly, with their numbers doubling in the past five years. They can cause significant crop damage and their nesting habits in power poles and transformers can cause power outages.

Thayer said the various interlopers named are costing us billions of dollars a year in damages and control efforts.

And, it could get worse.

He concluded his testimony by warning that between 2000 and 2005, more than 1,000 venomous puff adders were imported through Florida ports. The vipers are considered one of Africa’s most dangerous snakes, Thayer said.

Only time will tell if there’s a he adder and a she adder out there.

Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is plewis@naplesnews.com

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National Science Foundation grant awarded to professor

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Contact: Dr. Robert H. Cowie, (808) 956-4909, (808) 956-4909

Feb. 4, 2010

A grant of $499,999 has been awarded by the National Science Foundation to Dr. Robert Cowie of UH Mānoa’s Center for Conservation Research, part of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center.

The grant supports a project to advance understanding of the biodiversity of “apple snails.” Led by Dr. Cowie, it involves a team of scientists from Hawaiʻi, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The ability to assess the severity of the “biodiversity crisis” hinges on addressing the “taxonomic impediment”—the serious lack of experts able to identify and classify organisms. This impediment is felt most seriously in the largest groups of animals on earth, the invertebrates, and the mollusks in particular. The primary goal of the project is to assess the diversity and identities of freshwater snails in the family Ampullariidae (“apple snails”).

These snails are important components of many ecosystems: one species native to the USA is the key food of the endangered Everglades kite. But introduced invasive apple snails are potentially serious pests in both natural and wetland agricultural ecosystems, as well as being potential vectors of infectious disease parasites. Here in Hawaiʻi, introduced apple snails have become a major pest of taro, and—introduced widely in south-east Asia—they have become the number one pest of rice.

More than 250 species of apple snails have been described, but how many of these are real species, as well as their true identities, is unknown. Knowledge of their diversity and distributions is thus extremely confused and studies of their ecology, behavior, pest status and control are confounded. The project will resolve this confusion by studying the snails’ shells, internal anatomy, DNA sequences and behavior.

Although understanding the identities, relationships and origins of these invasive species is of great importance, the lack of taxonomic expertise in such groups of snails is a serious problem globally. A major focus of the project is therefore the training of young scientists both in the United States and in South America (the origin of the pest species) in order to build this needed expertise, as well as providing tools to assist others such as agricultural and customs inspection officials to correctly identify these potentially invasive species.

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UF study: Invasive snail may damage diet of rare Everglades bird

By Tom Nordlie, tnordlie@ufl.edu, University of Florida News

Thursday, February 4, 2010.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive animals often wreak havoc with their feeding habits; however, University of Florida researchers say a huge South American snail is causing problems when it’s the prey rather than the predator.

Known as the island apple snail, it could threaten an endangered bird, the Everglades snail kite. The kite normally feeds on native apple snails the size of a golf ball. But in recent years, those snails have declined in historically important kite habitat and the birds have fled.

Many kites now dwell at Central Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga, which is filled with the invasive snails. The mollusks grow larger than a tennis ball and kites have difficulty holding them. Researchers warn that young kites there may be malnourished.

The study was published in the current issue of Biological Conservation.

Popular in the aquarium trade, the island apple snail may have been accidentally or deliberately released in the wild. It’s been found in numerous Florida locations, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

As the invader spreads, it could become a serious threat to snail kite populations, said Wiley Kitchens, a courtesy professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Fewer than 700 of the birds exist in the U.S., all of them in Central and South Florida.

“There’s an 80 percent probability that in the next 30 years, snail kites will be extinct in the U.S., for all practical purposes,” Kitchens said. But management efforts by state and federal agencies provide hope, he said.

The snail kite is important to scientists because it’s one of the few vertebrates whose range is largely restricted to the greater Everglades ecosystem, Kitchens said. He considers it a barometer for the region’s environmental health and success of Everglades restoration efforts.

Researchers observed snail kites at Lake Tohopekaliga, also known as Lake Toho, and at wetlands dominated by native apple snails.

Adult kites had trouble handling island apple snails but got enough to eat. Juvenile kites had more difficulty, possibly because they’re less experienced at holding and devouring prey.

The younger birds dropped invasive snails eight to 10 times more often than native snails, and it took them four times longer to attempt to eat the invasives, Cattau said.

The study suggests juvenile kites on a steady diet of invasive snails might burn more calories than they consume because they expend so much effort trying to eat the snails, said Chris Cattau, one of Kitchens’ graduate students.

“In some cases this could impact survival,” said Cattau, who co-wrote the paper.

The UF researchers hypothesize that if Lake Toho remains a popular kite breeding area, it may become an ecological “trap,” providing too little food for young birds and raising their mortality rate.

In Florida, the invasive and native apple snails have rarely been found side-by-side, said Phil Darby, an associate professor with the University of West Florida and an expert on apple snails. So it’s hard to say if the invader will displace native snails.

Anecdotal reports suggest native apple snail populations are rebounding in Lake Toho, though they remain low in many areas the kites have largely abandoned. Other reports suggest invasive apple snails have reached Lake Kissimmee and other Florida waters.

In any event, Darby says, native apple snail populations must be brought back in historically important kite habitat if the birds are to return there.

“They’re flexible,” he said. “Kites will show up where the food sources are most abundant.”

Report suspected invasive apple snails: http://www.myfwc.com/docs/WildlifeHabitats/FWC_applesnails_FLMS_handout.pdf.

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Publication on reducing rat lungworm infection issued by CTAHR

By Jim Hollyer, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Feb. 4, 2010

A cluster of recent cases of disease in Hawai’i caused by eating fresh produce contaminated with snails or slugs infected with the nematode parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the rat lungworm, has drawn attention to this foodborne threat, which can cause eosinophilic meningitis. A publication on preventive measures to reduce spread of rat lungworm infection on farms is now available from the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR).

According to the publication by authors from CTAHR, the UH Pacific Biosciences Research Center, and USDA, slugs and snails become infected with rat lungworm in two ways. Most commonly, the slug or snail will eat contaminated rat feces. Less commonly, the nematode burrows into the slug or snail through the body wall or enters through a respiratory pore when the animal comes into close contact with the contaminated feces. Other vectors of infection include frogs, freshwater shrimp, and land crabs.

The publication, which was reviewed by the Hawai‘i Department of Health, informs commercial growers of the danger of rat lungworm and urges them to take precautions necessary to reduce their risk of transferring the pathogen to consumers. It emphasizes the importance of mitigating contamination on farms and in home gardens by removing rodent, slug, and snail hiding places; trapping and killing these pests; and discarding any produce with visible slugs or snails, or their slime.

Consumer tips to avoid risk of infection are (1) carefully rub, while rinsing, all produce before eating it; (2) sanitize food-contact surfaces to prevent cross-contamination; and (3) cook potential hosts, such as culinary snails or freshwater prawns, to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before eating.

The document can be viewed at http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-39.pdf

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Snail invasion threatens Ala. Waterways

By Matt Barrentine, WALA, FOX10TV.cpm

Wednesday, 27 Jan 2010, 7:16 PM CST

A SLIMY INVADER

Biologists in are trying to beat back an invasion. For the past two years, snails the size of baseballs have been reproducing and spreading in south Alabama. But progress is finally being made against the creatures.

It’s underneath the calm surface of the lake in Mobile’s Langan Park that the battle is being waged. The enemy is the Island Apple Snail, a South American invader.

“They really showed up last year in full force,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Andy Ford told us.

Ford said the snails reproduce prolifically and push out other native species and their potential for spreading is ever-present.

We’ve all heard the term “Moving at a snails pace”. Well, these snails defy that. They can fill an air bladder, float to the surface and move with the current. That technique has allowed them to move within a mile and a half of the Mobile River.

BIOLOGISTS STRIKE BACK

Salt water has kept the snails from moving any farther and biologists want to eliminate them while they’re contained. Last fall, they attacked them with copper sulfate, which is toxic to the snails, but harmless to other species. That killed 60 percent of them. Combined with the cold weather, their numbers have noticeably dropped.

“They’re still here, but we’ve made a dent in them,” Ford said.

But the snails are tough. They can close a flap called an operculum and hide in their shells.

“They can actually burrow down into the sediments and close their operculum. They can stay like that for nine months,” Ford added.

FISH ENTER THE FIGHT

Ben Ricks, a Biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, has been trying another tactic: releasing hundreds of red ear sunfish into the waterways. They’re more commonly known as shell cracker.

“They’re a sunfish that is common, that is native, to this area. There is already some in this lake, but we’re just kind of bolstering their numbers,” Ricks said.

The shell crackers will hopefully eat the juveniles, but they can’t crack open an adult. So the fish are just one part of the battle.

“This is really going to be a war and we’ve just fought a few battles so far,” Ford said.

And losing the war against the snails on Three Mile Creek could affect every other waterway in South Alabama.

“We’re not sure of the extent that they might be doing damage, but we don’t want to see the extent,” Ricks warned.

SNAIL ORIGINS

So how did a South American snail come to be in Three Mile Creek in the first place? Biologists say they likely came from somebody’s aquarium.

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Biologists fill Mobile lake with sunfish, hope they’ll reduce invasive snail population

By Jeff Dute, Press-Register

January 25, 2010, 8:30AM

(redear sunfish image)

MOBILE, Ala. — Alabama fisheries biologists are hoping a massive stocking of redear sunfish will help take a bite out of the Amazonian apple snails in Mobile’s Municipal Park Lake and Three Mile Creek.

Alabama’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Section dumped more than 14,000, 2-inch redear — known commonly here as shellcracker — into the upper pool of Municipal Lake Friday afternoon.

Ultimately, the lake and creek will be stocked at a rate of 1,000 redears per acre to bolster an existing stock, said District V Fisheries Biologist Ben Ricks, who has lead efforts by state personnel and volunteers to control the snails.

Biologists fear the non-native snails because they have been shown to eat 95 percent of the aquatic vegetation in some natural systems, leaving behind murky, algae-filled water. The snail’s preferred food items include all of Alabama’s most common and important wetland plants: coontail, widgeongrass, spiderlillies, pickerelweed and bulltongue.

Ricks said the sunfish won’t eliminate the snails. But hopes are the species, which is native to Alabama and has jaws adapted for crushing the thin shells of snails and small mollusks, will find apple snail young a treat to eat.

“We decided they are one more tool we had to control and manage the snail population,” Ricks said.

Ricks said even with the redear stocking, a chemical-treatment program designed to kill the snails, which began last fall, will restart once water temperatures increase to the point snails become active.

Ricks said the shellcracker, which may reach 10 inches long and weigh a half-pound at maturity, won’t be able to eat the adult snails, but can easily devour juveniles.

Apple snails lay large wads of bubble-gum pink eggs on emergent vegetation and other structures above the waterline, but as the eggs hatch, the small snails fall into the water, making them vulnerable to predators like the redear, Ricks said.

“Even a 2-inch redear will be able to eat a newly hatched snail,” Ricks said, adding that there aren’t a lot of opportunities to use a native species like the redear in controlling an invasive species.

In earlier reports, fisheries biologists said the snails likely were introduced into the lake a couple of years ago by someone who had seen them outgrow a small aquarium. Adult snails are about the size of a baseball. It is feared the snails will move from Three Mile Creek into the Mobile Tensaw Delta.

Ricks said that record cold in Mobile may have some impact on the snails, but it would be minimal because the snails are able to bury themselves in mud and hibernate.

“There may be some cold-associated mortality among a handful that weren’t able to bury themselves, but from everything I’ve read and people I’ve talked to, I don’t think it will be enough to do us any favors,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea of any cold impacts this spring.”

Ricks said it is likely the snails will be a threat for a long time.

“There may be a day where we can say, ‘Hey, you remember that apple snail stuff?’ But right now, it looks like we’re going to be working on these guys for a while.”

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Huge potential for Ikan Pelian Fish

Daily Express, East Malaysia

January 11, 2010

Kota Marudu: Sabah has a good future in the development of inland fishery, especially for the breeding, rearing and export of ikan kelah (masheer fish), which is locally known in Sabah as ikan pelian.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the native inland river fish is as tasty as the same fish known as ikan empurau in Sarawak that can fetch as high as RM600 to RM700 per kilogram in restaurants.

Dr Ongkili said the ikan kelah/pelian business could boom in Sabah with the wider practice of the Tagal system where river is closed for fishing and only opened once a year to allow the fish to mature for market.

At the moment, the Tagal system is practised in 379 rivers in Sabah, out of which 19 are in Kota Marudu.

“There is huge market in the peninsula Malaysia, Hong Kong and China for ikan kelah or pelian, which is a high value and delicious fish,” he said.

Hence, he said, his ministry has commenced a technology transfer programme under its agency Technology Park Malaysia, which involves technology for the fertilisation, breeding and stocking of ikan kelah/pelian, to enrich the community.

The initiative, under the ministry’s Technology Application Programme (TAP) Mosti @ Community programme, involves a pilot project in Kampung Tangkol here, whereby those who practise the Tagal system are taught how to produce fish fry from matured stock and manage the maturing process through proper water control and indigenous feed.

Once the pilot project proves successful, eight more will be carried out, Dr Ongkili said.

“The centre, which was opened about six months ago as a training site for all Tagal members, now has full facilities such as indoor and outdoor ponds. The goal is to produce fish for market, as well as for districts having the Tagal system to restock their rivers, through the Fishery Department.

“It has so far successfully bred fish fry to mature stock,” Dr Ongkili said during a visit to the centre.

The project cost RM300,000.

He added that the project’s success could serve as a model for other districts to adopt, especially for other species of inland fishes that have high economic value but are fast depleting.

The indigenous feed for the fish will be formulated using local materials as ingredients, such as ubi kayu (tapioca), oil palm kennel from local mill, local fish mill, rice bran as well as indigenous herbs such as from the banyan tree (kayu nunuk), siput gondang emas (golden apple snails) and tongkat ali leave, he said.

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Tampa Bay bird-watchers brave cold for annual avian count

By Jessica Vander Velde, Times Staff Writer

Sunday, January 3, 2010

TAMPA — Mary Keith peered through her binoculars. A rapid, high-pitched squeak — “wee-see, wee-see, wee-see” — had caught her attention.

She and fellow bird-watcher Mary Pfaffko were sure it was a black-and-white warbler.

“It sounds like shoes on a gym floor,” Pfaffko said.

Sure enough, they caught a glimpse of the little bird as it flitted through the trees Saturday morning. Pfaffko, 32, pulled out her notebook and added another hash to the tally, the count that will be compiled with international numbers collected during the Audubon Society’s 110th annual Christmas Bird Count.

This citizen-collected data provides insight on species trends. In Tampa, for example, the number of mallards has remained steady, but fewer blue-winged teals and northern shovelers have been spotted in the past decade.

Keith, 62, said the greatest local losses have been in wetland and grassland species. Development is to blame, she said, because it’s decimating the birds’ habitat. She likes to take people bird-watching so they’ll care.

“They see the birds, and then they’re interested in saving the wetlands, the park and the trees,” she said.

But not all population gains among birds are for good reasons. At Lettuce Lake Park near Tampa, a group led by Keith spotted a lot of limpkins, a brown crane-like bird that got its name from what seems to be a limp when it walks.

Limpkins eat apple snails, and the local population boom is due to a recent increase in an invasive type of apple snail (Pomacea insularum) in the park, Keith said.

“The limpkins are usually much harder to find,” she said.

The two Marys started counting birds at 5:30 a.m. Keith started with two pairs of gloves to keep warm. They had to get going early, she explained, to hear the owls.

Later in the morning, she shed one pair and met up with more local bird lovers. The group split up: Some searched Tampa lakes for ducks, and George Kaye, 66, of Tampa, joined Keith and Pfaffko along Lettuce Lake’s boardwalks.

He wasn’t as quick as Keith, who has a lifetime of bird watching behind her. (“My parents were botanists,” she explained. “I grew up in the woods.”) But Kaye was the first to spot an osprey eating a fish on a branch of a towering cypress tree.

“Mmmm, good,” he said, holding up his binoculars. “Tasty fish.”

The three quietly walked along the boardwalk, calling out bird names to Pfaffko whenever they saw or heard a bird.

Turkey vulture. Wood stork. Carolina wren.

A family walked up from behind, braving the cold with their two young boys.

“Do you see that bird?” the dad asked.

It was a white ibis.

Keith is used to the common white ibis. But she usually sees more egrets and herons along the water in Lettuce Lake Park. They might be farther back in the trees, out of view, because of the high water level, she said.

“They don’t always cooperate,” Kaye said.

And the birds don’t always follow what birding books say about them.

One time, Keith saw an owl catch a fish that was so big it had trouble dragging the fish out of the water.

“Owls aren’t supposed to go fishing,” she said. “But that bird never read the book. It didn’t know.”

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443 (813) 661-2443.

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Invading Amazonian snails in Mobile park just won’t die; some just look drunk after poison

By Ben Raines , Press-Register

December 21, 2009, 8:07AM

MOBILE, Ala. — Despite thousands of pounds of poison, hundreds of man hours and an all-out attack by state and federal biologists, Amazonian apple snails are still hanging on in Langan Municipal Park and Three Mile Creek.

Traps are being used to catch Amazonian apple snails, which are non native to the region and whose population has exploded. The population has grown so fast officials worry the creatures could spread into the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Officials plan to poison the lake to try and get rid of the invasive snail. What’s more, in defiance of all scientific predictions, the snails have not gone dormant with the approach of cold weather. They are out and sliming about right now at the pond in the west Mobile park, according to state biologists.

Officials now believe that stronger measures are in order, with up to 8 2-day-long applications of copper sulfate poison planned for next year.

Scientists said the coming efforts should work better because they have learned more about how the snails react to the chemical.

“Right after treatment, the copper makes the snails act almost like they are drunk,” said Andy Ford, a biologist with the state Division of Wildlife and Fisheries. They become sluggish and clumsy, he said, unable to close the operculum — a small, hard plate the animal closes over its shell opening when threatened.

Ford said the snails revealed another skill biologists had not counted on.

“The copper sulfate (poison) is a granular material. It sinks to the bottom. We think they are sensing that and becoming buoyant,” Ford said. The aquatic snail can close its operculum and pump air into the shell, he said, allowing it to float to the surface and away from the poison.

Dead snails also float to the surface, so scientists originally assumed all the floating snails were dead, only to learn many of them were simply waiting out the poison. Next year, all floating snails will be disposed of.

“Every time we think we’ve got them figured out, they do something new,” Ben Ricks, a state biologist, said during a meeting this week with scientists from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the University of South Alabama, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Mobile parks officials and representatives from Mobile Baykeeper and the Alabama Coastal Foundation.

“We know we put a pretty good dent in them this year, but we didn’t get rid of all of them.”

Ricks said the number of snails caught in a trap in the Langan pond had dropped from about 74 a day before the treatment to three or four a day in early December.

He credited the strong response from volunteers — who spent a total of 290 hours killing snail eggs — with helping whack the snail population back.

A stretch of Three Mile Creek, upstream from Martin Luther King Boulevard and near Mobile Infirmary, was a hot spot for the snails, Ricks said, mostly because there was a lot of aquatic vegetation in the area that snails could lay eggs on.

So far, Ricks said, the snails have not been seen near the mouth of Three Mile Creek, likely due to higher salinity levels closer to the bay. But, he noted, the infested creek could serve as a snail pipeline right into the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“We need to monitor in the delta to make sure the snails don’t get established,” Ricks said. “If fishermen or anyone else sees the snails or the egg masses in the delta, they need to contact the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division immediately.”

The eggs masses look like wads of pink bubble gum. Snails can destroy wetlands in short order by eating aquatic vegetation. State biologists hope to wipe them out before they spread beyond Three Mile Creek.

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Snails hang on in Mobile despite poison

Associated Press – December 21, 2009 7:24 AM ET MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – Tons of poison and strong efforts by state and federal biologists have failed so far to eradicate the Amazonian apple snails in Mobile’s Langan Municipal Park and Three Mile Creek.

Alabama state biologists also say that cold weather has not put the invading snails into a dormant state.

The Press-Register reports that officials say they plan up to eight applications of copper sulfate poison next year.

Andy Ford, a state biologist, says the snails adapted to attempts to wipe them out this year. He says when copper sulfate was placed in the water, many snails rose to the surface to avoid the poison, which sank to the bottom.

Officials say that while they didn’t eradicate the snails, they did make a big dent in their numbers.

Information from: Press-Register, http://www.al.com/press-register/

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A new exotic species could be crawling its way across Southwest Florida

By Eric Staats of NaplesNews.Com

December 6, 2009

It’s the Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis)— and the biggest mystery about them is what their spread could mean for native ecosystems. “The impacts are largely unknown,” Lee County Hyacinth Control District deputy director John Cassani said.

The district’s mission to combat the troublesome water plant pest put it on the front line of the snail’s invasion of part of the canal system in Cape Coral in March 2007, Cassani said. The snails were so numerous that workers stepping out of a canoe couldn’t make a move without crunching at least one of the critters. Their abundance by 2007 indicated to Cassani that the snails probably had been there for a few years before they were spotted.

Earlier this year, a more formal search for the snails — scooping up random samples from 30 spots in the canal — estimated about 100 mystery snails per square meter, Cassani said. The mystery snails were not alone. The search also found other non-native mollusks: Asian clam, island applesnail and Malaysian trumpet snail. Since then, the mystery snails have been found in a new segment of the canal system, further downstream from the original find in west central Cape Coral.

Cassani and co-presenter Shawn Liston, an Audubon of Florida research manager based at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier County, sounded the alarm at a recent exotic species workshop at Florida Gulf Coast University. “We didn’t want to get hysterical about it, but the population is expanding a bit,” Cassani said.

The snails, which are popular aquarium curiosities and algae eaters, probably found their way to the canal system when hobbyists emptied their tanks, Cassani said. He theorized that the foreclosure crisis that hit Cape Coral might have exacerbated the problem. Now that the snails are in the wild, the worry is that they could crowd out native snail species or have unforeseen effects further up the food chain, scientists say.

Besides that, the snails are known to be a host for some parasites that can infect humans. Cassani said it’s not often that scientists can catch an exotic species early enough to control its spread. “Unfortunately it may be beyond that point with this species,” he said.

Using fish to control the snails is problematic: one such fish, also a non-native species, already is swimming around Cape Coral, Cassani said. A native snail-eater, a sunfish species, can’t get its mouth around the adult snails because they grow too big, he said. A trapdoor-like mechanism allows the mystery snail to retreat into its shell and safely avoid chemical controls, Cassani said. That leaves getting rid of the snails by plucking them out of a waterway — an option that’s only viable if you know where the snails are.

“Getting the word out to as many people as possible is a good first step,” Liston said. The mystery snails are not newcomers to the exotic species scene. As for the origin of its name, various sources chalk it up to pet store owners trying to drum up business or to the snail’s ability to give birth to live babies without a mate. Scientific literature cites the earliest report of Chinese mystery snails in the 1890s in a market in San Francisco. Today, they are found in states all over the nation, especially in the northeast and the Great Lakes states.

The first record of the Chinese mystery snail in Florida dates to a 1947 discovery in a lake in Orange County, according to a University of Florida database. The snail also has been reported in St. Petersburg, Polk County, Orlando and the state’s Big Bend region. So far there have been no reports of the snail in Collier County’s estuaries.

That is little comfort to Jeff Carter, the resource manager at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve between Naples and Marco Island. Carter said the Chinese mystery snail, while slow on its own, could easily hitch a ride on fishing gear or a boat hull and pop up just about anywhere. “I would not be surprised if at some time we don’t see them down here,” he said.

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2009/dec/06/chinese-mystery-snail-becoming-headache-they-invad/

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Escape of the giant snails? Amazonian species found in Mobile creek after eradication effort began

By Ben Raines/ Press-Register

October 21, 2009, 9:57AM

Image: Jimbo Meador, Mobile Baykeeper board member, removes apple snails from Three Mile Creek.

MOBILE, Ala. — Amazonian apple snails and their nuclear pink eggs were easy to find on Three Mile Creek Tuesday, bad news given that state biologists applied a copper-sulfate snail poison to the entire creek last week.

Though wildlife officials said the chemical was effective in the lake at Mobile’s Langan Park during the recent effort to poison the snail population there, the creek is proving more difficult to treat.

The Press-Register accompanied Mobile Baykeeper board member Jimbo Meador on a kayak trip down the middle stretch of the creek Tuesday, launching above Spring hill Avenue and ending a few miles below where the creek crosses under Interstate 65.

A number of snails were found alive, about equal to the number found dead. The snails have spread downstream despite the presence of numerous dams across the creek, including several about 5 feet tall.

“We knew we wouldn’t get them all,” said state biologist Dave Armstrong, after learning that a number of snails had survived. “We got everywhere we could, but we had to be careful to keep the dose right. There are going to be spots, places where there’s less of the copper. Maybe some of the snails were just able to close up their shells and wait until that slug of copper had passed downstream.”

Armstrong said poisoning the population in the creek was of the highest priority for the state Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries because the creek flows into the Mobile River at the edge of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

He and other biologists have said that a breeding population of the voracious, non-native apple snails represents a biological nightmare for the Delta. The snails are infamous for their ability to decimate aquatic plants and turn thriving wetland areas into turgid, algae filled pools.

On Tuesday, some snails were found scaling the faces of the steel dams along Three Mile Creek while others were seen consuming aquatic vegetation. Their bubble-gum pink egg masses were primarily attached to cattails growing at the water’s edge.

“It’s just really hard to get 100 percent control. In the lake we did a really good job. But in the creek its just a much more dynamic place with a lot more variables,” Armstrong said.

He described the stretch of creek behind the Mobile Infirmary as “just filthy with snails.”

As fall takes hold of Mobile and the water temperature begins to drop, the snails will go dormant, meaning they cannot be poisoned again until the spring.

“We’re going to need more funding next year. We’ll have to get in there and treat the emergent vegetation,” Armstrong said.

Meador has kayaked Three Mile creek several times in recent weeks, keeping tabs on the snails.

“I’m just worried for the Delta,” he said while scraping egg masses off cattails. “If these things get loose in there, who knows where they’ll stop.”

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Kill the snails, part II: Officials seek volunteers to fight invasive species Saturday

By Press-Register staff October 08, 2009, 6:30AM

Snail Trap Image (Press-Register, Bill Starling)

Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries biologist Ben Ricks holds two Amazonian apple snails which were taken from a trap at Langan Park Thursday Oct. 1, 2009. The traps are being used to catch Amazonian apple snails, which are non native to the region and whose population has exploded. The population has grown so fast officials worry the creatures could spread into the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Officials are seeking volunteers to help contain the invasive pest on Saturday.

MOBILE, Ala. — Conservation officials are again asking for help Saturday to remove island apple snail egg masses at Langan Municipal Lake in Mobile and Three Mile Creek. The large snails, which strip native vegetation from lakes and waterways as they rapidly reproduce, were the subject of a similar cleanup last week. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Wildlife and Fisheries division are organizing the cleanup.

Much of the lower watershed from Langan Lake to the mouth of the Mobile River ship channel has been infested, leaving the snails less than 2 miles from the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The goal is to prevent further spread outside Three Mile Creek. Volunteers are needed, as well as trucks — especially 4-wheel drives with winches — and small motorized boats. Those with kayaks or canoes are also welcome, as the creek has many areas inaccessible by boat.

Conservation officials plan to treat the water with copper sulfate, but the herbicide will not kill eggs, which are laid in masses or on vegetation or hard surfaces. Volunteers will scrape eggs off all surfaces and collect the in buckets or bags to be destroyed later.

Those wanting to help should meet at Langan Park Lake at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The lake is off Spring Hill Avenue about 2 miles west of Interstate 65. For more information, call 251-626-5153 or 251-433-4229.

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Biologists try to rid Mobile ponds of giant snails

October 5, 2009

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ Alabama officials concerned about the rapid migration of giant South American apple snails are about to try to halt their advance in Mobile County.

Ben Ricks, a biologist with the state Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries division, says a heavy dose of poison will be administered on Monday two ponds in Mobile’s Langan Municipal Park and in most of Three Mile Creek, down to Conception Street Bridge. Authorities said they want to stop the advance of the apple snails before they colonize the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

In addition to poisoning the thousands of fist-sized adult snails, officials say they plan to smash every one of the pink wads of snail eggs they can find, beginning Saturday. Experts say the snails typically destroy all aquatic plants in areas they infest, leaving behind an algae-filled wasteland.

“These guys may be the perfect snail, and that makes them very hard to kill,’’ Ricks told the Press-Register in a story Friday. “They have gills, they have lungs, they burrow. Every time we say, ‘Well, why don’t we do this to kill them,’ it turns out that isn’t going to work for one reason or another.’’

Ricks and biologists from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service set 25 snail traps in the pond this week. They collected the traps Thursday morning, along with 50 pounds worth of baseball-sized snails. Ricks said the pond will likely have to be poisoned several times.

The pond will be restocked if the poisoning causes a fish kill.

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Slowing the Snail Invasion

by Chad Petri, WKRG

October 03, 2009

MOBILE, Alabama – Volunteers are trying to slow a snail invasion. Dozens of volunteers swept through Langan Park this morning, 10/3/09, looking for apple snails. The invasive species is multiplying throughout the area. Organizers were using paint scrapers to collect as many snails and eggs from around the park as they could. The fist-sized buggers are then buried in dry ice. Organizers say the snails are a big problem.

“You have to get involved in this because if these snails get into the Mobile Bay Delta they could ravage the delta all the grass beds, which could impact our fisheries, our shrimp season, everything” says Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway. Callaway says volunteers will be at it again next weekend. Officials believe someone dumped out their aquarium into the park a few years ago, inadvertently starting the snail crisis.

Here’s a FAQ e-mail I was sent from officials on the snails:

1. What is an island apple snail? Island apple snails are mollusks that are native to Central and South America. They have been in the United States since 1950, but were not considered problematic until they began to feed on agricultural rice in Texas and Louisiana. Once apple snails were discovered to be damaging as a crop pest, they also became a concern in wetland areas where they were observed degrading native aquatic vegetation. The spiral shell of the island apple snail can vary in color from nearly black to a pale yellow and they can grow to over four inches in diameter. This species of snail reproduces by laying clutches of eggs during the warmer months of the year. The egg clutches have a pink bubble gum color.

2. Where can we find apple snails in the Mobile area? You can find them in Langan Municipal Park Lake and in portions of Threemile Creek.

3. If they are not native to this area, how did island apple snails get here? It is believed that the local population of island apple snails originated from releases of aquarium pets. By state regulation, it is unlawful to intentionally stock or release any fish, mussel, snail, crayfish or their embryos into the public waters of Alabama except back into waters from which they came without written authorization from Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

4. Why should we be concerned about island apple snails? Apple snails have proven to be invasive species with the capacity to cause severe damage to native wildlife habitats and agricultural crops. In addition to damaging agricultural and wetland areas, apple snails can typically carry parasites that have potential for human health risks.

5. What do ADCNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to do about the island apple snails in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek? In an effort to control the population of island apple snails, biologists are using an EPA-approved chemical treatment called copper sulfate to kill adult and juvenile snails. Besides being an effective molluscicide, copper sulfate is a material that has historically been used to control algae in swimming pools and fish ponds. The copper sulfate that will be used is also approved for use in potable water supply lakes. A series of chemical treatments will need to be made, in addition to the removal and destruction of snail eggs.

6. How will the copper sulfate affect other wildlife? Copper sulfate is not toxic to mammals, birds, or reptiles. But they can be toxic to fish.

7. Could there be a fish kill? There is a chance of a fish kill in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek. If a fish kill does occur, biologists are prepared to restock the lake to be as good as, if not better than before the chemical treatment.

8. Why is it so important to get this population of island apple snails under control so quickly? The island snails are quickly multiplying. The population needs to be under control before it invades the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

9. How long will it take to kill them all? We don’t expect that this initial effort will completely eradicate the apple snails from Langan Park or Threemile Creek. A long term monitoring and control program will be needed to successfully keep this species from expanding its range in Alabama and threatening other aquatic habitats.

10. How do I get more information on Island Apple Snails? Contact WFF Biologist Ben Ricks at (251) 626-5153 or by e-mail at ben.ricks@dcnr.alabama.gov. You can also contact USFWS biologist Andy Ford at (251) 441-5838 or by e-mail anthony_ford@fws.gov.

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Giant snails in Mobile

Friday, 02 Oct 2009, Cherish Lombard & Mike Jernigan of Fox10.TV

MOBILE, Ala. – The snails lay tiny pink eggs that hatch into Apple Snails, which can grow to 6 inches in diameter.

“They’re an invasive exotic species. They’re native to Central and South America and they’ve been introduced here and reproduced without a control,” said Ben Ricks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service..

Ricks says the snails have been in Mobile for more than two years, and he believes they were introduced to the area when someone dumped an aquarium into the ponds at Langan Park.

“Somebody got tired of having an aquarium and just came here to the park and turned them loose,” said Ricks.

The snails are herbivores, and live off aquatic plants.

That has Fish and Wildlife officials worried.

“If they persist here, over the next few years, there will probably be little to none eventually,” said Ricks.

If the Apple Snails aren’t controlled, folks at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also afraid they will spread into the Mobile Tensaw Delta.

Saturday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will scrape snail eggs off hard surfaces before treating the ponds at Langan Park, and Three mile Creek with copper-sulfate.

“Because snails have a high toxicity to copper. Once we’ve done that treatment, we’re also going to monitor the system,” said Ricks.

Ricks says that treatment will not harm the birds or turtles that swim in the water, but there is a chance that the fish will be affected by the copper. He says if they are, the Department of Conservation will restock the ponds.

He hopes one treatment will take care of snails, but believes it could take years to get rid of them.

If you would like to volunteer to help clean the Apple Snails out of Langan Park, you can call the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service at: 251-626-5153

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Officials plan to eradicate alien snails from Langan Park Lake, Three Mile Creek

Friday, October 02, 2009

By BEN RAINES

Staff Reporter/ Press-Register

More than a year after the discovery of giant, voracious South American apple snails in Mobile’s Langan Municipal Park, the gastropods have colonized most of Three Mile Creek, down to the Conception Street bridge.

The fact that the snails have migrated to within about a mile of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta represents a worst-case scenario, according to biologists.

Beginning Monday, state officials will administer a killing dose of poison to the two main ponds in Langan Park and most of Three Mile Creek. Authorities said they hope they’re halting the advance of the snails before they colonize the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

In addition to poisoning the thousands of fist-sized adult snails infesting the pond and creek, officials plan to smash every one of the bubble gum pink wads of snail eggs they can find, starting Saturday.

Those egg masses have become ubiquitous in the park, coating concrete walls, the face of the dam, the cattails, cypress knees and other plants emerging at the water’s edge.

Volunteers, especially volunteers with kayaks, are more than welcome to come join the smashing party.

“These guys may be the perfect snail, and that makes them very hard to kill,” said Ben Ricks, a biologist with the state Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries division. “They have gills, they have lungs, they burrow. Every time we say, ‘Well, why don’t we do this to kill them,’ it turns out that isn’t going to work for one reason or another.”

Ricks and biologists from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service set 25 snail traps in the pond this week.

The biologists collected the traps Thursday morning, along with 50 pounds worth of baseball-sized snails. About a quarter of the snails in the traps were locked together — shell opening to shell opening — in the process of mating.

Ricks said there is little hope that a single dose of the poison, copper sulfate, is going to do the trick. More likely, he said, the pond will have to be poisoned several times. If the poisoning causes a fish kill, the pond will be restocked.

Authorities plan to poison the creek all the way down to the Conception Street bridge. As it stands now, about all that is keeping the snails from expanding out of the creek is luck. It is possible, authorities said, they have already invaded the delta.

“If the snails were to get into the delta, it could be devastating. This is an important, albeit icky, task that we are looking forward to doing on Saturday morning,” said Casi Callaway, director of Mobile Baykeeper, which is coordinating the volunteers.

The snails have wreaked havoc in Louisiana, decimating rice crops and wetlands. They typically destroy all aquatic plants in the areas they infest, leaving behind an algae-filled wasteland.

It is believed they were dumped in the park after growing too large for a home aquarium.

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Invasive apple snails to be eradicated in Alabama

http://www.TheFishingWire.com October 1, 2009

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) will begin efforts to control the population of island apple snails that has become established in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek in Mobile, Ala. An initial chemical treatment to kill adult and juvenile snails with an EPA approved formulation of copper sulfate is scheduled to take place during the week beginning Saturday, October 3; weather and stream flow permitting.

Besides being an effective molluscicide, copper sulfate is a material that has historically been used to control algae in swimming pools and fish ponds. The copper sulfate product that will be used is also approved for use in potable water supply lakes. A series of chemical treatments will need to be made in Langan Municipal Park Lake and in portions of Threemile Creek. Control measures will also include trapping adult and juvenile snails and the manual removal and destruction of apple snail eggs from these locations. Egg removal and trapping efforts will take place both before and after the chemical treatments.

The island apple snail has been introduced outside of its native range into many locations around the world. It has often proven to be an invasive species with the capacity to cause severe damage to native wildlife habitats and agricultural crops. It is one of three closely related South American aquatic snail species that have been widely sold for use as aquarium pets. The spiral shell of the island apple snail can vary in color from nearly black to a pale yellow in color and they can grow to over four inches in diameter. This species of snail reproduces by laying clutches of eggs on emergent plants and other surfaces above the water. The eggs, which are bright pink in color, take between one to two weeks to hatch and an individual female snail will lay many clutches of eggs during the warmer months of the year.

It is believed that the population of apple snails in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek originated from releases of aquarium pets. By state regulation, it is unlawful to intentionally stock or release any fish, mussel, snail, crayfish or their embryos, including bait fish, into the public waters of Alabama except back into waters from which they came without written authorization from the WFF. This rule does not apply to the incidental release of bait into the water during the normal process of fishing.

ADCNR Commissioner Barnett Lawley warns of the dangers of releasing exotic animals into the wild. “The willful or accidental introduction of exotic invasive species is a growing threat to our native aquatic and marine wildlife resources and habitats.” Lawley said. “It is critical that people not release aquarium animals or plants into the waters of the state”.

The WFF consulted with the City of Mobile, other state and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental conservation organizations in developing plans to control and limit the expansion of this population of apple snails. Assistance was obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Marine Resources Division, Mobile Baykeeper and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped up in a big way to help us with addressing this serious threat to Alabama’s aquatic resources. The materials necessary for this effort would not have been readily available without their help,” WFF Director Corky Pugh said.

The City of Mobile has authorized the WFF to pursue snail control measures on city properties and will be taking steps to control emergent vegetation in the lake where many of the snails lay their eggs. Volunteer groups have also been enlisted to assist with the removal and destruction of snail eggs. Additional volunteers are needed as well. Anyone wanting to volunteer should contact Tammy Herrington with Mobile Baykeeper at (251) 433-4229. Volunteers with kayaks or canoes, or experience with either are especially desired. However, all types of assistance will be welcomed and appreciated.

It is not expected that this initial effort will completely eradicate the apple snails from Langan Municipal Park Lake or Threemile Creek. A long term monitoring and control program will be needed to successfully keep this species from expanding its range in Alabama and threatening other aquatic habitats.

For additional information, contact WFF Biologist Ben Ricks by phone at (251)-626-5153, or by email, ben.ricks@dcnr.alabama.gov.

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Apple Snail Control Efforts Planned at Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek in Mobile, Volunteers Welcome

September 29, 2009

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) will begin efforts to control the population of island apple snails that has become established in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek in Mobile, Ala. An initial chemical treatment to kill adult and juvenile snails with an EPA approved formulation of copper sulfate is scheduled to take place during the week beginning Saturday, October 3; weather and stream flow permitting.

Besides being an effective molluscicide, copper sulfate is a material that has historically been used to control algae in swimming pools and fish ponds. The copper sulfate product that will be used is also approved for use in potable water supply lakes. A series of chemical treatments will need to be made in Langan Municipal Park Lake and in portions of Threemile Creek. Control measures will also include trapping adult and juvenile snails and the manual removal and destruction of apple snail eggs from these locations. Egg removal and trapping efforts will take place both before and after the chemical treatments.

The island apple snail has been introduced outside of its native range into many locations around the world. It has often proven to be an invasive species with the capacity to cause severe damage to native wildlife habitats and agricultural crops. It is one of three closely related South American aquatic snail species that have been widely sold for use as aquarium pets. The spiral shell of the island apple snail can vary in color from nearly black to a pale yellow in color and they can grow to over four inches in diameter. This species of snail reproduces by laying clutches of eggs on emergent plants and other surfaces above the water. The eggs, which are bright pink in color, take between one to two weeks to hatch and an individual female snail will lay many clutches of eggs during the warmer months of the year.

It is believed that the population of apple snails in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek originated from releases of aquarium pets. By state regulation, it is unlawful to intentionally stock or release any fish, mussel, snail, crayfish or their embryos, including bait fish, into the public waters of Alabama except back into waters from which they came without written authorization from the WFF. This rule does not apply to the incidental release of bait into the water during the normal process of fishing.

ADCNR Commissioner Barnett Lawley warns of the dangers of releasing exotic animals into the wild. “The willful or accidental introduction of exotic invasive species is a growing threat to our native aquatic and marine wildlife resources and habitats.” Lawley said. “It is critical that people not release aquarium animals or plants into the waters of the state”.

The WFF consulted with the City of Mobile, other state and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental conservation organizations in developing plans to control and limit the expansion of this population of apple snails. Assistance was obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Marine Resources Division, Mobile Baykeeper and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped up in a big way to help us with addressing this serious threat to Alabama’s aquatic resources. The materials necessary for this effort would not have been readily available without their help,” WFF Director Corky Pugh said.

The City of Mobile has authorized the WFF to pursue snail control measures on city properties and will be taking steps to control emergent vegetation in the lake where many of the snails lay their eggs. Volunteer groups have also been enlisted to assist with the removal and destruction of snail eggs. Additional volunteers are needed as well. Anyone wanting to volunteer should contact Tammy Herrington with Mobile Baykeeper at (251) 433-4229. Volunteers with kayaks or canoes, or experience with either are especially desired. However, all types of assistance will be welcomed and appreciated.

It is not expected that this initial effort will completely eradicate the apple snails from Langan Municipal Park Lake or Threemile Creek. A long term monitoring and control program will be needed to successfully keep this species from expanding its range in Alabama and threatening other aquatic habitats.

For additional information, contact WFF Biologist Ben Ricks by phone at (251)-626-5153, or by email, ben.ricks@dcnr.alabama.gov

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Tropicalia wild file: Snail Kite

by Byron Stout, btout@news-press.com

September 27, 2009

Snail kites are what naturalists call charismatic fauna – easy and fun to watch – and what wildlife managers call difficult. Their numbers in the U.S. are plummeting, down in recent years from about 3,000 birds to around 700 today.

Snail kites have been documented eating crayfish and a few other little critters, but what the aquatic hawks really want are snails, and not just any snails. They like apple snails.

One might guess the proliferation of fist-size exotic apple snails would mean happy days for snail kites, but according to Audubon’s Lake Okeechobee science coordinator, Dr. Paul Gray, only the adults can get the exotics open with their sharply curved beaks. Juveniles need native apple snails, and those have been wiped out of traditional habitat like Okeechobee’s western marsh during recent drought conditions.

So kites like this adult male, notable for its all-gray coloring and red legs (females and juveniles are brown-striped) are resorting to manmade refuges like STA-5 in the western Everglades, where David McNicholas spotted this one in a pond apple tree.

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New Species in Lafayette

Robert Burns of Eye Witness News KLFY TV 10

September 10, 2009

A chance discovery last week has paired a Lafayette ecologist with a species of snail never before discovered in Lafayette.

A species that could become a threat for area rice farmers called the Island Apple Snail.

Lafayette Ecologist Jacoby Carter was studying nutria rats at Gerard Park when he stumbled upon something no one in Lafayette has seen before; pink egg sacks which turned into a number of Island Apple Snails indigenous to South America and a select few of the country’s states. And where they’re located someone had to have introduced them to the area.

While they look much like a typical snail their impact is much greater and dangerous. Not only to humans, if eaten, but to the ecosystems Gerard park gives them easy access to.

“That lake there dumps into the rest of the canal system and then later they can get from there and into the Bayou vermilion” says Carter

Which could turn into a major crop threat, the apple snail packs a powerful appetite, eating mainly leaves and rice crops, something the bayou vermilion has plenty of.

“When these snails first hatch they’re so small they’re barely even noticeable, but the concern is how much rice and leaves these things can eat” says Carter.

Carter took TV10 to the spot where he stumbled upon the snails. To kill whatever eggs were left from his previous visit. A process intended to help control their population and prevent spreading.

What started as a simple discovery has turned into a whole new study, something Carter says he’ll continue to do for the remainder of the year.

Researchers say to help control the population of the snail, if you’re using them in home tanks, return them to the pet store or kill them after you’re done… Also to notify the wetlands center if you see any in the wild.

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The Ebro Delta begins plan to rid itself of the scourge of the Apple snail

Barcelona Reporter – Spain, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The increase of the apple snail, one of the 100 most invasive species on the planet, has put in jeopardy the entire Ebro delta according to rice farmers, technicians of the Natural Park of Delta de l’Ebre, conservation organizations, biologists and policy maker

The Ebro Delta begins plan to rid itself of the scourge of the Apple snail. The problem is a huge one and there is no time to lose. Government agencies have begun to implement a plan in the short to medium term, to eliminate the pest manually, mechanically and chemically as they hope to avoid a plague of harmful effects on the rice and the unpredictable impact on biodiversity in the area.

On the left margin of the delta, in the margins of Sèquia Mare, is a major irrigation channel around eight miles in length, all the plant biomass has been reaped to remove the eggs and adult snails that had been deposited. The Regants Comunitat de l’Esquerra de l’Ebre, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, has been responsible for clearing the area of vegetation. To ensure the results all the waste has been incinerated.

The infestation has started to attack in its highest concentration, L’Aldea, Camarles and L’Ampolla, between the Baix Ebre and Montsià. It is only the beginning of a plan that includes spraying the area with chemicals and the massive destruction of apple snails with machinery when the rice fields and irrigation canals are dry, the coming winter.

“The large scale program will start when the Ebro delta has the correct temperature,” says Antoni Espanya, director of the Department of Agriculture in Terres de l’Ebre. According to first estimates, it will take two to three years to prevent the apple snail, present in over 40% of the left margin of the delta and in the final stretch of the river Ebro, from becoming pests.

Very few measures appear to prevent the spread of this unusually voracious species, originally from South America. Thousands of specimens and eggs have already spread, being amongst the top one hundred most invasive species in the world.

[The Ebro Delta, located in Tarragona, Spain, is 350 square kilometres, while the width of the river varies between 160 and 380M, with an average depth of 3 to 5 metres. The vegetation diversity of the Ebro Delta is extremely rich with 515 species catalogued. There are large pools surrounded by giant reed beds and rushes in coastal portion.]

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Lungworm kills dog in Scotland, concerns vets

September 7, 5:10 PM Infectious Disease Examiner Robert Herriman

With wet weather conditions often comes an explosion in the snail and slug population. These slimy creatures are important in the life cycle of the lungworm, Angiostrongylus vasorum. The problem is that dogs may accidentally or purposefully eat these creatures which can be a serious health hazard to canines.

Veterinary surgeon, Richard Payne in Scotland is trying to make people aware of this parasitic infection he says is spreading across his country. “Previously unrecognized in this area, angiostrongylosis has a wide range of symptoms, which can make it difficult to diagnose. However, with the increasing appearance of the parasite causing this disease, vets are on the lookout for the condition before it progresses to a stage where it becomes fatal.”

Mr. Payne added: “The symptoms of the condition are many and varied. You might notice coughing, reluctance to exercise, depression, weight loss, fits, vomiting, weakness and paralysis, or persistent bleeding from minor cuts. However, a small proportion of dogs are hidden carriers, which means they don’t show any symptoms.

The natural definitive hosts for A. vasorum are various species of fox. Adult females in the pulmonary arteries release eggs intravascularly, which then lodge in small vessels and capillaries, where they hatch.

Larvae break into alveolar spaces of the lungs and often are associated with chronic pneumonia. Larvae migrate up the trachea, are swallowed, and then are passed in the feces.

Snails and slugs become infected by feeding on the canine feces. Dogs and foxes become infected by eating gastropods containing the infective larvae. In addition, frogs can serve as an intermediate host.

There have been cases of this infection in foxes, coyotes and domestic dogs in North America.

According to Payne, “The disease is not treated by using conventional worming tablets every 3 months, or even every month. However, treatment is relatively simple and a prescription-only spot-on product can be obtained from your vet. This treatment also controls other worms, fleas, and mites, which means you can address lungworm and a number of common parasites

in one application.”

A related parasite, the rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is a deadly parasite of humans who accidentally or intentionally ingest raw snails and slugs. Lettuce and other leafy vegetables may also be a source if contaminated by small mollusks. Eating raw or undercooked prawns and crabs that have ingested mollusks may also be a source of infection.

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Apple snails prove hard to control

SunHerald.Com August 20, 2009

For a trencherman like me, a large snail means something to be sauteed in butter and garlic and served with a nice cabernet sauvingon. Unfortunately, the ones recently found in Pearl River county are not the escargot I’ve eaten and enjoyed (although, by some accounts, they are quite tasty).

They pose a serious threat to rice production and to natural wetlands in the Southeast. These huge snails (they can grow to the size of a softball) were first discovered in Hawaii in 1989 where they almost destroyed the state’s taro crop; in the Dominican Republic, they managed to wipe out rice production within three years after their arrival.

Florida was next to come across them in the early ’90s, followed by North Carolina in 1992. Next came California in 1997 and Texas in 2001.

Louisiana found them in early 2006, and they were discovered here in the Magnolia State in 2008. To date, we’ve managed to find them in three separate private lakes in Mississippi.

Beyond their potential threat to rice crops, the apple snail’s voracious appetite can be a serious problem for native aquatic plants. In some instances, it has completely eliminated plant life from lakes and ponds, leaving behind nothing but algae-filled water and masses of dead fish.

Because they have both gills and lungs, they will sometimes emerge from the water to feed on vegetation along the shoreline. At one of the lakes in Pearl River County, snails come out at night and feed on their lawns of some of the homeowners adjacent to the water.

Apple snails originated in the Amazon Basin and were brought to the United States as aquarium pets in the 1950s (unlike in Asia, where they were brought in as a potential food source). In all likelihood, most of the infestations in the U.S. were caused by people growing bored with their aquarium and dumping the contents into a convenient canal, lake or pond.

Like most successful invasive species, these snails can outproduce and outcompete their native competitors. The apple snail can reach sexual maturity in just two to three months. A female needs to mate only once and she can lay egg clusters of 200 to 600 eggs for months. In fact, those egg clusters are the best indicator we have for the presence of the snails.

The egg masses are laid out of the water on a vertical surface, such as an anchored boat, pier piling, tree trunk or cattail stem. The eggs are like nothing else you’ll see around a pond. They’re the color of bubble gum — bright pink — and they really stand out.

Although there are some predators that will feed on them (alligators, carnivorous ducks, raccoons), there aren’t very many ways to control the snails. Anything we do to kill the snails will have a deleterious effect on other invertebrates in the water. All we can hope to do right now is to limit their spread.

If you see these pink egg masses or the snails, you need to call the Bureau of Plant Industry at (888) 257- 1285.

Tim Lockley, is a specialist in entomology and is retired from a 30-year career as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with questions to Tim Lockley, c/o Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535.

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Hawaii’s snails and slugs are not wanted on mainland

By Helen Altonn, Star Bulletin

Aug 18, 2009

Hawaii has snail and slug pests that the mainland wants to keep out to protect agriculture and the environment, a University of Hawaii-Manoa researcher says.

They include African snails, apple snails and Parmarion martensi, a slug implicated in rat lungworm disease, said Robert Cowie, a snail/slug biologist.

Cowie, of the Center for Conservation Research and Training, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, led a team that developed the first list of non-native snails and slugs of national quarantine significance.

The study was focused on species that are not already in the United States or are only locally distributed, he said. Hawaii was included because it has species the mainland is concerned about getting, he said in an interview.

“Hawaii is sort of a special case,” said Cowie, chairman of the Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology graduate program at UH-Manoa. He said the group decided that even if some snail and slug species were widely distributed in Hawaii, “We would still consider that a problem for import into the mainland U.S. because theoretically it is impossible to confine those species to the Hawaiian Islands.”

Cowie said apple snails have been introduced to the mainland but are not in particularly sensitive areas. The one here causing major taro problems is in small areas of California and Arizona, he said. “What we don’t want to happen is for it to get into California rice fields.”

In the mid-1990s, he said, the California and Arizona agriculture departments asked him to identify some tiny snails found on shipments from a Puna nursery. “It was something we hadn’t seen in Hawaii before.”

He said those shipments were destroyed, but as far as he knows, no exports from Hawaii’s horticulture industry to the mainland or foreign countries have been prohibited because of snails and slugs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture asked the American Malacological Society in 2002 to assemble a list of potentially threatening snail and slug pests because they are circulating around the world with globalization.

In the 1960s, African snails were introduced to Florida by a boy who took them home from Hawaii as pets in his pockets, Cowie said. He let them loose, which caused a huge infestation that took years and a lot of money to eradicate, he said.

Alien species in the United States cost an estimated $120 billion annually in damage to agriculture and the environment, the researchers reported.

The USDA asked them for a list of 15 species considered of highest priority to prevent them from entering or becoming established in the U.S., but they submitted a list of 48 species or groups of species representing 18 families.

Rather than restrict themselves, Cowie said they decided “it was better to be a bit more inclusive, and at least that keeps people sufficiently aware of broader groups that might cause problems.”

Top-ranked potential pests are Ampulariidae (freshwater apple snails), already in Hawaii, and a family of snails called Hygromiidae, not yet here. However, they are around the Mediterranean and southern Europe and could be imported with domestic tiles, Cowie said.

He said funding has been requested to organize a conference on rat lungworm disease, which has been reported on the Big Island and is increasingly prevalent because of the snail Parmarion martensi. It was only introduced about a decade ago but seems to be spreading, he said.

“Even though it’s in Hawaii, it’s not on all islands,” he said, stressing the importance of trying to prevent harmful snails and slugs from moving among islands.

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Rat lungworm – a disease you do not want to catch

Charles Simmins, Rochester Infectious Disease Examiner, Examiner.com

August 9, 2009

There are a variety of exotic illnesses and diseases that rarely make the news. Becoming infested by the rat lungworm is certainly one.

The Hawaiian State Department of Health devotes a page on its website to this parasitic disease. The Centers for Disease Control also offer a great deal of information.

This parasite goes by the Latin name Angiostrongylus cantonensis. It lives in rats and can be ingested by snails and slugs who consume rat feces.

How on earth would a person become infected with the rat lungworm? Raw produce, raw or undercooked snails, freshwater prawns, crabs and frogs are cited by Hawaii as sources. Children have been know to eat slugs or snails, perhaps on a dare, and become ill in that manner. Fish do not carry the parasite.

While some people will have no symptoms at all, it is possible to come down with a rare form of meningitis. Treatment in humans consists of treating any symptoms, such as headache. The body’s normal defenses will kill the parasite in a few weeks. You cannot pass it on to another person.

Prevention is commen sense. Most people will not eat raw slugs or snails. Wash produce thoroughly and if you must handle snails and such, wear gloves and wash your hands.

Most human cases of rat lungworm have been in Asia, the Pacific Islands and in the Caribbean. Proper food handling and sanitary precautions will prevent an infection with this parasite and many other illnesses.

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Apple snails rotten to the core for Alabama waters, biologists fear

By Ben Raines • Press-Register • August 11, 2009

MOBILE — When wildlife officials realized that baseball-sized Amazonian snails had colonized the main pond in Mobile’s Langan Park last year, their worst-case scenario involved the giant gastropods escaping into Three Mile Creek. A year later, that’s what’s happened. Distinctive, bubble-gum pink wads of snail eggs have been found downstream of the pond’s dam, indicating that the apple snails are there.

The only thing keeping the apple snails out of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, according to biologists, is the time it will take them to move down the creek. “Anything downstream of the lake is pretty much fair game at this point,” said Dave Armstrong of the local office of Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “I’m really concerned. We’re going to have to hustle to get something done before the winter.” The snails bury themselves in mud during winter.

Biologists fear the nonnative apple snails because they have been shown to eat 95 percent of the aquatic vegetation in some natural systems, leaving behind murky, algae-filled water. The list of the snail’s preferred food items include all of Alabama’s most common and important wetland plants: coontail, widgeongrass, spiderlillies, pickerelweed and bulltongue.

State officials believe that a few of the Amazonian snails likely were dumped into the pond after they had grown too large for a home aquarium. Pet stores sold the snails for years, but that practice now is illegal.

State officials have a blueprint for poisoning the snails at a cost of about $50,000. Any delay will reduce success, state biologist Ben Ricks said. “I think the only hang-up at this point are questions of manpower, funding, equipment and such,” said Dan Otto, Mobile’s parks superintendent. “To my mind, the problem is bigger than just the city. But I’m sure the city can help.”

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08.10.2009 9:01 pm

Climate change adds to the threat of invasive species.

By Editorial Board at STLToday.com

As threats go, being overrun by an invasive snail species is about as frightening as, say, being run over by a glacier. But that — the snail invasion, not the runaway glacier — is just what’s happening in some western Missouri waterways. The culprit: A poetically named invertebrate called the Chinese mystery snail. First discovered in the Blue River near Kansas City a few years ago, the snails now have been confirmed in five other waterways. They recently were found in the Niangua River. Reporter Kim McGuire wrote about their spread in Monday’s Post-Dispatch.

Despite the name, there’s very little mysterious about Chinese mystery snails. The animals, which are about the size of chicken eggs, were first imported as a food sold in Asian groceries more than a century ago. They’ve since become popular in fresh water aquariums because they eat algae. They probably were released into the wild by careless dumping, joining a host of non-native species that have established niches in our state. Unfortunately, increased competition between native and non-native species probably are the wave of the future.

There’s nothing new about invasive species. Animals and plants have been jumping geographic and political boundaries since humans first began exploring the world hundreds of thousands of years ago. Missouri already is home to dozens of non-native species, including Asian carp and zebra mussels — not to mention kudzu and armadillos. These invaders are, in some cases, nothing more than a curiosity. But in other cases, they can be expensive pests.

Zebra mussels reproduce so prolifically that they can clog inflow and outflow pipes in rivers and lakes, requiring expensive maintenance. They also encrust the hulls of boats and barges, requiring that the vessels be taken out of service and cleaned. Other imported pests, especially gypsy moths and Asian longhorn beetles, threaten Missouri hardwood forests and the timber industry those forests support.

Biologists worry that new species will out compete or crowd out native plants and animals, many of which are uniquely adapted for our environment.

It takes time for animals and plants to adapt to the environment in places like Missouri and Southern Illinois. It takes a lot less time for non-native species to move in and displace those plants and animals. Biologists say that one likely effect of global warming is increased competition between local and imported species. That’s because the environment to which those native plants and animals adapted is changing quickly. Take Missouri’s average winter temperature as just one example. Over the past decade, it’s been about two degrees higher than it was during the previous peak in the 1930s. That has important implications for wildlife and agriculture. Migratory patterns of ducks and other birds have changed as a result, with their peak arrival occurring about a week earlier. Climatologists predict that by the end of the century the climate in Southern Illinois will be similar to that now experienced in eastern Louisiana or South Texas.

No wonder species like armadillo, once only found much farther south, have begun turning up here.

A new snail species may not seem like a big threat — just as slightly warmer average winter temperatures don’t seem like a big deal. But each little change has the potential to disrupt the delicate ecological balance. Ultimately, those little disruptions can create very large — and very undesirable — changes.

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Giant snails justify park pond poisoning

Saturday, August 08, 2009 in AL.com the home of the Press-Register

IT MAY sound like a bad movie script, but the invasion of the Amazonian apple snails in Langan Park could wreak environmental havoc.

Softball-sized snails from South America and their bubble-gum pink masses of eggs are not supposed to be in the main pond at Mobile’s popular public park. State wildlife officials are sufficiently worried that they’re plotting a counterattack.

Some snails are said to have escaped into Three Mile Creek, and the experts fear they’ll migrate into the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Once there, they could eat wetlands and change the habitat in ways that could impact the whole delta. Or, they could stow away on ships and barges coming through the Port of Mobile and be carried off who knows where.

So officials propose to poison the pond, at a cost of about $50,000.

The Amazonian apple snail probably was dropped into the pond at some point after outgrowing someone’s aquarium. In snail-eating circles, it’s considered a delicacy, but it must be thoroughly cooked or it transmits a nasty lung parasite, as some 90 residents of Beijing, China, found out in 2006.

Chinadaily.com, which reported that incident, also says the snails devoured rice paddies once they got loose.

And that’s the problem with thinking that one snail dropped in a pond won’t do any harm.

The state of Louisiana has a Web site (www.nutria.com) devoted to the large rat-like crea ture that somehow got into the marshes sometime in the 1930s. Prized in the 1940s for controlling aquatic weeds, the nutria multiplied, got out of control and started chomping on marsh, rice fields, sugarcane fields and levee systems.

Hurricane Audrey washed thousands of nutria inland in 1957, making things worse. Today, Louisiana pays bounties on nutria that are trapped or disposed of in other ways.

The nutria example is why the Press-Register editorial board doesn’t recommend what seemed to us a simple solution: obtaining a few Amazonian snail-eater snakes from South America (we found them on the Internet) and turning them loose in Langan Park.

A few snail-eating snakes might solve the problem in the short run but create a new, invasive, snake population explosion in the long run. You just don’t know what’s going to happen in 50 years.

Langan Park-goers are probably going to be upset when the pond is poisoned. Some fish, but apparently not all, are likely to be killed along with the snails. But the pond can be restored and restocked, and indeed the city of Mobile should insist that the Department of Natural Resources do a good job of it.

The poisoning of the pond and the scraping and disposal of the eggs is best done before winter, when the snails burrow into the mud beyond reach. The sooner the counterattack begins, the better.

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Source of Missouri Exotic Snails Less Mysterious Than Their Name

Staff infoZine Jim Low – Friday, August 07, 2009

Conservation officials remind anglers to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species by not dumping bait.

Jefferson City, Mo – infoZine – The latest in a seemingly endless parade of exotic plants and animals to show up in Missouri has a name that seems ironic to those struggling to hold the line against invasive species.

During a 2008 vacation on the Niangua River, a man noticed snails that were much larger than any of Missouri’s native snails. They were the size of chicken eggs. He brought some to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Camdenton office.

“I was glad to get the report,” said Fisheries Management Biologist Craig Fuller. “They were Chinese mystery snails, a species on Missouri’s list of prohibited species. Besides being illegal to possess, they have the potential to multiply out of control and upset the ecological balance in Missouri waters.”

Since being discovered at a private boat ramp at Mountain Creek Campground, the snails have been found a short distance downstream in the Niangua River, at the Conservation Department’s Prosperine Access. Considering how many high flows have occurred on the Niangua River in the past year, Fuller says it seems likely the snails already have spread to other locations as well.

In spite of their name, there is little mystery about how Chinese mystery snails and other invasive species have spread across North America. People brought them here, some accidentally and some intentionally.

Chinese mystery snails arrived at Asian food markets and in the pet trade to be stocked in aquariums.

The zebra mussel, which turned up at several Missouri lakes in 2006, hitched a ride from Eurasia to the Great Lakes in the ballast tanks of oceangoing vessels. Since then it has traveled to distant lakes and streams on trailered boats.

The rusty crayfish, native to the Ohio River Basin, has been spread through the live-bait trade.

The gypsy moth, which has devastated forests from the East Coast to the Midwest, was brought to the United States in an attempt to hybridize silk worms. Now, their main method of colonizing new areas is attaching eggs to travel trailers and other outdoor equipment.

Dozens of other invasive species in North America have similar stories. Some, like the common carp, are so familiar we hardly recognize them as transplants. But each one alters the balance of plant and animal life by displacing native species.

Invasive Species Coordinator Tim Banek said the Niangua River mystery snail report was the sixth confirmed infestation in Missouri. He said he is not aware of any effective way to eradicate the snails, though removing and destroying them whenever possible is worthwhile.

More important, said Banek, is avoiding spreading Chinese mystery snails or other potentially harmful plants and animals. The simplest precaution, and one of the most effective, is never dumping bait.

“When you buy minnows, worms, crayfish or other live bait, you never know for sure where it came from or whether it might contain adults or larvae of invasive species,” said Banek. “Instead of dumping bait on the ground or in the water, put it in a trash bag and send it to the landfill. That is a pretty good guarantee that non-native species won’t escape. Furthermore, the Wildlife Code prohibits the release of unused bait to waters where it did not originate.”

Information about invasive species is available at mdc.mo.gov/landown/invasive.htm.

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Chinese mystery snails on the move in Missouri

By Kim McGuire, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 08.06.2009

If zebra mussels weren’t bad enough, state conservation officials have another invasive species to worry about.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reported Thursday that they’ve discovered Chinese mystery snails, a popular aquarium species, in the Niangua River, a popular destination in south central Missouri.

The snails were actually spotted by an observant person who realized the snail – about the size of the a chicken egg – was significantly larger than most of Missouri’s native snail species.

Invasive species can wipe out entire ecosystems by besting native species for food and habitat resources. Missouri has its fair share of such worrisome critters including the zebra mussel, Asian carp, emerald ash borer and rusty crayfish.

Missouri’s Invasive Species Coordinator Tim Banek said the Niangua mystery snail report was the sixth confirmed infestation in Missouri. Given the flooding on the river this year, they suspect the snails have been spread to other locations.

Banek said he was not aware of any effective way to eradicate the snails, though the best way to prevent their spread is to avoid dumping bait, which sometimes contains their larvae.

“When you buy minnows, worms, crayfish or other live bait, you never know for sure where it came from whether is might contain adults or larvae of invasive species,” Banek said. “Instead of dumping bait on the ground or in the water, put it in a trash bad and send it to the landfill. That’s a pretty good guarantee that non-native species won’t escape.”

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Snail found in Niangua River no mystery, conservation agency says

Copyright ©2009 Springfield News-Leader

August 6, 2009

The mystery surrounding the appearance of snails the size of chicken eggs in the Niangua River isn’t much of a mystery, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Chinese mystery snails either were released in the river by anglers who no longer needed bait fish that might have carried snail larvae or from people who didn’t want the snails in their aquariums, according to the department.

The Niangua River is the sixth body of water in Missouri where the invasive snails has been found.

Chinese mystery snails are on Missouri’s list of prohibited species.

Along with being illegal to possess, the snails can multiply out of control and compete with native species, according to department fisheries biologists.

Snails were discovered on the Niangua at a private boat ramp at Mountain Creek Campground and downstream at the Prosperine Access.

It’s possible the snails have spread downstream, according to the department.

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Invasion of snails: Officials plot their attack

By Ben Raines, Staff Reporter

© 2009 Alabama Live LLC

Sunday, August 02, 2009

When wildlife officials realized that baseball-sized Amazonian snails had colonized the main pond in Mobile’s Langan Park last year, their worst-case scenario involved the giant gastropods escaping into Three Mile Creek.

Now, a year later, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Distinctive, bubble-gum pink wads of snail eggs have been found downstream of the pond’s dam, indicating that the snails are there as well.

The only thing keeping the apple snails out of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, according to biologists, is the time it will take them to move down the creek.

“Anything downstream of the lake is pretty much fair game at this point,” said Dave Armstrong with the local office of Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, who discovered that the snails had escaped from the pond. “I’m really concerned. We’re going to have to hustle to get something done before the winter.”

Biologists fear the non-native snails because they have been shown to eat 95 percent of the aquatic vegetation in some natural systems, leaving behind murky, algae-filled water. The list of the snail’s preferred food items include all of Alabama’s most common and important wetland plants: coontail, widgeongrass, spiderlillies, pickerelweed and bulltongue.

State officials believe that a few of the Amazonian snails were likely dumped into the pond after they had grown too large for a home aquarium. Pet stores sold the snails for years, but that practice is now illegal.

A year ago, egg masses were evident at Langan pond, but the snails themselves were hard to find. Last week, a walk to the pond’s edge revealed 12 snails within 10 feet of each other, and egg cases caking every surface at the edge of the lake, from cypress knees to cattails to concrete culverts.

There is concern that the minor flooding associated with summer rains could be enough to wash young snails — which often attach themselves to pieces of wood floating in the water — all the way to the Mobile River.

“If this occurs, apple snails could invade more than 20,000 acres” of the delta, according to a report prepared by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries biologists. Snails could lay eggs on ships and barges, and “the port of Mobile could become a source of apple snails to the Tombigbee River, Alabama River and ports outside of Alabama.”

State biologists considered the invasive snails a pressing threat and had hoped to poison the pond and exterminate the invaders last summer.

Instead, those involved said last week, various debates took precedence, including who should pay for the extermination effort, who should be in charge of it, and how exactly to go about killing the notoriously hardy creatures.

In the end, no action was taken before the first cold snap of winter sent the big snails burrowing into the mud at the bottom of the pond to hibernate. Once buried, they cannot be poisoned.

“Nobody dropped the ball, it just hasn’t happened as quickly as we all wanted,” Armstrong said. “We have been talking all along about the need to deal with them. It took awhile to figure out what to do. They are very hard to eradicate.”

State officials now have a blueprint for wiping out the snails at a cost approaching $50,000. Any further delay reduces the chance of success, according to state biologist Ben Ricks, who drafted the plan.

“I think the only hang-up at this point are questions of manpower, funding, equipment and such,” said Dan Otto, Mobile’s parks superintendent. “To my mind, the problem is bigger than just the city. But I’m sure the city can help.”

Step One involves killing all of the cattails and other emergent vegetation around and in the pond to help reduce places the snails can lay their eggs.

Then all of the pink egg masses will be scraped from the pond’s banks and frozen, which kills the eggs.

After that, the lake itself will be poisoned with copper sulfate, killing the snails and some of the fish in the pond, which is a popular fishing spot supporting healthy populations of bass and bream. State officials said the pond would be restocked if needed.

Press-Register reporters have documented the presence of tilapia in the pond, another invasive species that threatens the integrity of the delta. Biologists said getting rid of the breeding population of that fish in the pond would also be beneficial.

After the pond is poisoned, inspections will be performed at regular intervals. A follow-up application of copper sulfate will likely be required, according to

Oahu, Big Island Patients Contracting Rare Disease

Mountain View Resident Recovering After Hospitalization

KITV.COM on July 9, 2009

HONOLULU — Hawaii doctors are seeing cases of a rare and painful parasitic disease that has affected a number of people on the Big Island and Oahu’s North Shore. A patient recovering from “rat lungworm” spoke with KITV. He said he has been dealing with lingering after effects. It started out with a salad. Mountain View resident Aaron Zeeman ate something he thought was healthful. “I’m eating it and I just noticed something bitter. I was like ‘ugh,’ and spit it out,” Zeeman said. He had bitten into a slug that carried a parasite, eosinophilic meningitis, also known as rat lungworm.

Zeeman became very ill. He was hospitalized for 10 days. “I was having hallucinations and I was delirious and having delusions,” he said. Zeeman is now being treated by rare infectious disease specialist Dr. Francis Pien, who treats a handful of a cases of rat lungworm a year. “It mainly causes neurologic symptoms mostly meningitis, stiff neck, headache, some people go into coma,” Pien said. It can cause terrible headaches, and in Zeeman’s case, intense joint and muscle pain.

“Let’s say you just went on a 20-mile hike and you didn’t walk much Before that, you know how your whole body would be? Like that. I was moaning, couldn’t get out of bed, in pain constantly. It was really bad,” Zeeman said.

The parasite is transmitted by rats, slugs and snails. “The rats deficate in the soil and it’s taken up by the vegetation and then the plenarians, like slugs, eat vegetation; people eat slugs,” Pien said. Zeeman told KITV on Thursday he was glad to be celebrating his daughter’s 10th birthday. However, he still walks slow and said he has to deal with chronic pain. He and the doctor both have advice on avoiding rat lungworm.

“Don’t eat snails or slugs,” Pien said

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Angiostrongyliasis: a story of eating raw snails

Robert Herman, Examiner.com, June 14

Have you ever watched Spike TV’s show 1000 Ways to Die? If you haven’t, it’s a show that recreates very unusual deaths and has experts discuss the death. It goes over deaths caused by germs, toxins, catastrophes, and injury.

When you watch this show you always have a reaction. It can be “Oh my God” like when in one episode a high school P.E. teacher is impaled in the eye by a javelin, or it may be “How incredibly stupid!”, like when two metal heads snort fire ants trying to imitate an urban legend about Ozzy Osbourne.

The show often begins with the following warning: “WARNING: The deaths portrayed in this show are real and extremely graphic.” “The names have been changed to protect the identities of the deceased.””Do not attempt to try ANY of the actions depicted.” “YOU WILL DIE!”. It always ends with a silly nickname of the death. The one I want to discuss is entitled “Brain worms”.

What is angiostrongyliasis?

It is an infection caused by the rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This is a parasitic infection in rats where it matures. Mollusks like snails and slugs pick up Angiostrongylus larvae by ingesting them in rat feces.

How do people get this parasite?

Infection is by accidentally or intentionally ingesting raw snails and slugs. Lettuce and other leafy vegetables may also be a source if contaminated by small mollusks. Eating raw or undercooked prawns and crabs that have ingested mollusks may also be a source of infection.

What are the symptoms and disease?

Angiostrongylus cantonensis infection is usually asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Symptoms usually appear in 1-3 weeks. The most serious disease is eosinophilic meningitis. The symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting. The spinal fluid exhibits eosinophilia of over 20%. Deaths are rarely reported.

Symptoms may last for weeks to months.

How is this infection diagnosed?

The presence of eosinophils in the spinal fluid and a history of eating raw snails suggest angiostrongyliasis. Finding the worms in spinal fluid or at autopsy is confirmation.

What about treatment?

Treatment is usually not necessary. The parasite dies over time since it can’t mature and complete its life cycle. Usually treatment of symptoms; headache medicine, steroids are all that is needed. Treatment with anti-parasitic drugs is generally ineffective against angiostrongyliasis.

How do you prevent getting angiostrongyliasis?

• Don’t eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs.

• Cook crabs and prawns to kill the larvae.

• Thoroughly clean lettuce and other produce.

http://www.examiner.com/x-7707-Tampa-Disease-Prevention-Examiner~y2009m6d14-Angiostrongyliasis-a-story-of-eating-raw-snails

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Apple snails flood Lake Okeechobee

Poor recent conditions hurt population

by kevin lollar • klollar@news-press.com • June 12, 2009

“People never stop to think how important snails can be,” water district environmental scientist Rachael Pierce said.

Indeed: This particular snail species [the native, Florida Apple Snail (Pomacea paludosa)]is the primary food source of the snail kite, whose North American range is limited to South Florida, particularly watersheds of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, Kissimmee River and Upper St. Johns River. [WRONG]

No apple snails, therefore, means no snail kites, and apple snail populations at Lake Okeechobee have fallen on hard times recently.

Their problem is they don’t do well in high water or droughts.

“Lake Okeechobee used to be the hub of the snail kite’s range,” district environmental scientist Eric Crawford said. “But with floods and hurricanes and the latest drought, the snails at the lake have disappeared, so there are no snail kites on the lake anymore.

The water district is stocking Eagle Bay Marsh with apple snails to determine whether they’ll survive and breed and, ultimately, lure snail kites back to the lake

For the experiment, district scientists collected snail eggs from Lake Kissimmee — apple snails lay clutches of about 25 eggs above the water on stalks of emergent vegetation such as maidencane and pickerel weed.

The eggs were hatched and raised to maturity at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce

Before returning the snails to the water district, institute staff glued a small, numbered, laminated-plastic tag to each snail’s shell.

Stocking a wetland with snails is a little more precise than stocking a lake with fish.

Scientists laid out a grid of 4,900 square meters (1.2 acres) and waded through the waist-deep water, releasing 15 snails every 5 meters

This week’s release was actually the water district’s second: On April 23, 1,500 apple snails were released nearby in Eagle Bay Marsh.

“That population is doing well,” Pierce said. “We’ve documented that they’re surviving and reproducing in that release site.”

In the wild, apple snails have a very low survival rate.

“Everything eats them, absolutely everything,” Pierce said. “Crayfish eat them. Turtles love, love, love apple snails. Limpkins, grackles, ibis all eat them.

That’s not all. Florida’s native apple snails might be competing with an exotic (non-native) species: the much larger channeled apple snail, a native of South America.

Whether the exotic snail will eventually dominate the native’s habitat remains to be seen.

“We don’t have direct evidence to show competition,” said snail expert Phil Darby of the University of West Florida. “We have a couple of places like Lake Toho where native snail populations were already low when the exotic snail was introduced, and now we see more exotics than natives.

“We did laboratory studies that indicate the presence of the really large snail can affect the growth of the native, but it’s hard to extrapolate that to a big lake.”

In a strange twist, the exotic apple snail is helping and hurting snail kites by creating what scientists call an ecological trap at Lake Toho. An ecological trap is a site that is both attractive and detrimental to a species

“Almost all of the snail kite nesting is at Lake Toho — there are lots of exotic snails at Lake Toho, one to two per square meter,” Pierce said. “Adult snail kites love them, but they’re too big for the new fledglings to handle, so the fledglings are starving.

Even if the water district’s efforts produce a breeding population of apple snails at Eagle Bay Marsh, restocking alone won’t bring snail kites back to Lake Okeechobee, Darby said.

“If you look at the densities of snails that support snail kite foraging, it’s one snail for every square meter,” Darby said. “For one hectare, that’s 10,000 snails. For the whole lake, that’s a lot of snails.”

Pierce acknowledged that fact

“To restock the whole lake would take 200 million snails,” she said. “There’s no way to raise that many. That would be kind of silly.

“We just hope to take the best places for nesting and foraging and increase the snail populations in those areas. Then we hope the snails will do the work on their own.”

This week’s release was actually the water district’s second: On April 23, 1,500 apple snails were released nearby in Eagle Bay Marsh.

“That population is doing well,” Pierce said. “We’ve documented that they’re surviving and reproducing in that release site.”

In the wild, apple snails have a very low survival rate.

“Everything eats them, absolutely everything,” Pierce said. “Crayfish eat them. Turtles love, love, love apple snails. Limpkins, grackles, ibis all eat them.”

That’s not all. Florida’s native apple snails might be competing with an exotic (non-native) species: the much larger channeled apple snail, a native of South America.

Whether the exotic snail will eventually dominate the native’s habitat remains to be seen.

“We don’t have direct evidence to show competition,” said snail expert Phil Darby of the University of West Florida. “We have a couple of places like Lake Toho where native snail populations were already low when the exotic snail was introduced, and now we see more exotics than natives.

“We did laboratory studies that indicate the presence of the really large snail can affect the growth of the native, but it’s hard to extrapolate that to a big lake.”

In a strange twist, the exotic apple snail is helping and hurting snail kites by creating what scientists call an ecological trap at Lake Toho. An ecological trap is a site that is both attractive and detrimental to a species.

“Almost all of the snail kite nesting is at Lake Toho — there are lots of exotic snails at Lake Toho, one to two per square meter,” Pierce said. “Adult snail kites love them, but they’re too big for the new fledglings to handle, so the fledglings are starving.”

Even if the the water district’s efforts produce a breeding population of apple snails at Eagle Bay Marsh, restocking alone won’t bring snail kites back to Lake Okeechobee, Darby said.

“If you look at the densities of snails that support snail kite foraging, it’s one snail for every square meter,” Darby said. “For one hectare, that’s 10,000 snails. For the whole lake, that’s a lot of snails.”

Pierce acknowledged that fact.

“To restock the whole lake would take 200 million snails,” she said. “There’s no way to raise that many. That would be kind of silly.

“We just hope to take the best places for nesting and foraging and increase the snail populations in those areas. Then we hope the snails will do the work on their own.”

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Teacher develops eco-friendly way to fight snails

Taiwan Today

Publication Date:06/09/2009

Source: Liberty Times

Chen Zhen-liu grew up in a farming family and is now a teacher in the Department of Food Processing at National Lung-Tan Agricultural and Industrial Vocational High School. Over a decade ago, her father was poisoned by chemicals while spraying agricultural fertilizers and pesticides on crops on three occasions, and he had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment. Chen believes that the agricultural pesticides are not a good solution; they may kill insects and other pests, but the chemicals also pose a serious hazard to both humans and the environment. As a result, Chen has spent an enormous amount of time over the years developing a method that will rid the fields of pests but not harm people or the environment.

Chen says that putting emulsified vegetable oil on top of the larvae of Golden Apple Snails creates a thin film to prevent oxygen from getting through the larvae, thus suffocating them. Chen has led students into the fields and vegetable patches many times to test her method, and the results have all been quite impressive. The method has been granted a patent. A number of companies have contacted her about using her research to concoct a marketable product.

Ceng Zhung-yi, speaker of the Taoyuan County Assembly, recently initiated an activity to eradicate snails. Chen hopes that her new method will help farmers get rid of this pest. Chen also said that she discovered that white butterflies and Aphids often damage Brassicaceae vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, leaf mustard and bok choy. They tried out the emulsified vegetable oil method on the larvae of these insects and found it to be quite effective.

Chen has also carried out research into organic acids made from fermented fruit peelings, and she discovered that they are able to dissolve proteins in the meat of the Golden Apple Snails, making it another environmentally friendly method of ridding crops of such pests. Chen said that neither of the two methods she has developed so far cost much, and she would like to let more people know about them. Chen can be reached via the school’s Department of Food Processing at (03) 479-2929.

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Lake Seminole, Post Searchlight, Bainbridge, GA (June 2, 2009)

By Jack Wingate

“The Orange Apple Snail is eating Hydrilla at a high rate of speed here in Lake Seminole [36,500 acres]. Some wonder if it can eat it all up?”

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Silka’s Story: A Fight against Rat Lungworm

Written by Tim Sakahara – tsakahara@kgmb9.com May 26, 2009 05:26 PM

Rat Lungworm (angiostrongylus cantonensis) was first found in Hawaii in the 1960’s. But it’s only in the past year that it’s caused severe problems. Still little money is spent on research. So little is known about rat lungworm Silka Strauch went to the hospital three times, but was sent home by doctors saying it was the flu. She ultimately wound up in a coma. Beauty and brains, Silka Strauch has both. She earned an economics degree from Germany but followed her passion and moved to Hawaii to teach yoga.”She fell in love with this island,” said Gisela Strauch, Silka’s Mom. A beautiful person struck by an ugly disease.

Rat lungworm attacks the nervous system and makes it feel like your skin is on fire.”The pain became so unbearable she had to scream,” said Strauch. The disease goes from rats to slugs and snails on to people when they don’t wash their produce. Strauch caught the parasite in December and went into a coma on Christmas Day. She’s now in what’s called an awakened coma, able to move her eyes but not much else. You can see the pain on her parent’s faces as they stand by her daughter’s bed side.

“It is unbearable for me and my husband,” said Strauch. Since January 2008, 13 people in Hawaii have caught rat lungworm. Still disease experts say it’s not high on the priority list.

“It’s one of those orphan diseases that are common in third world countries but not in industrialized countries so there’s not been a lot of motivation for funding in terms of research,” said Dr. Sarah Park, State Epidemiologist.

The Department of Health did circulate a flyer trying to warn people to wash their produce.

“When you eat locally grown just make sure you wash it really well don’t just be cavalier about holding them underwater shake them off and assume their clean. Really take the time to clean them off,” said Dr. Park.

For Silka Strauch, her parents desperately want to take her back to Germany because at the Hilo Medical Center they say the doctor sees her just once a month.

“Silka is here in a very small hospital they are not specialized to treat comatose patients on a long term basis with lots of rehabilitation,” said Gisela Strauch.

“We hope she will get rehabilitation treatment in Germany,” said Ralf Strauch, Silka’s Dad.

Quest and the state dropped her health insurance in April so hospital bills are mounting. Back in Germany she’ll have health coverage the second she gets off the plane. The family started a website and is asking for your help paying for the expensive trip.

“We have great hopes,” said Gisela Strauch.

A team of emergency German physicians have volunteered to bring Silka back to Germany. It’s still expected to cost about $55,000 to fly the air ambulance. The family has already raised $30,000.

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Official action begins to curb foreign species

ONEP to publish guide on destructive animals

By: APINYA WIPATAYOTIN, BANGKOK POST

Published: 14/05/2009 at 12:00 AM

A government handbook will be distributed in an attempt to stop the spread of foreign animal species which pose a threat to the nation’s ecosystem. Nisakorn Kositratna, secretary general of the Office of Natural Resources, said her office had classified foreign animals into four categories and would distribute the information to 24 relevant agencies. “We are preparing guidelines and pictures of the animals so officials can easily identify and learn how to deal with them,” she said. The handbook would be completed in two months.

Ms Nisakorn said officials would be trained how to monitor the animals and taught how to cope with the situation should a species proliferate. The ONEP said 82 animal species listed in the first category were classified as harmful to local plants and animals. Fifty-two species listed in the second category are likely to spread. The third category contains 49 species of animals which have not spread into the natural environment, while the fourth is a list of 91 species which have not yet been detected in the country.

The species listed under the four categories include apple snails, sucker fish and iguanas. The cabinet has approved the move to control the alien creatures. “We need tough measures to prevent their spread,” Ms Nisakorn said. “This is part of our commitment to the biodiversity convention which requires all parties to reduce the impact on biodiversity with ’significant meaning’ by 2010. “We believe we can prevent the impact on biodiversity from alien animals.” Officials have detected about 3,500 foreign animal species which have both positive and negative impacts on the local environment.

Apple snails invading rice fields cause more than a billion baht ($2.9M) in damage to farmers every year. Meanwhile, Chaweewan Hutacharoen, the chairwoman of a foreign animal species committee, said she had invited agencies to discuss measures to control the animals. They will be asked to help with a survey on the numbers of some animals so the information can be discussed at a biodiversity conference later this month.

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Parasite sickens Thai workers after they eat raw snails

STAFF WRITER, WITH CAN, TAIPEI TIMES

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

Four out of five Thai workers who ate raw snails earlier in the month became infected with a potentially deadly parasite, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director Chou Jih-haw said that three of the workers were in stable condition, while one had left Taiwan and the other had not shown any symptoms of illness.

Three of the workers were reported to have been infected with the parasitic nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis — an elongated cylindrical worm — early this month and developed symptoms of eosinophilic meningitis, including headaches, fever and vomiting, Chou said.

The DOH discovered that the trio and some of their friends had caught apple snails, Pomacea canaliculata, in fish ponds in southern Taiwan and eaten them raw with sauce.

Snails are usually the primary host of the worm, also known as the rat lungworm — a parasite endemic to Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.

Humans become infected by ingesting the parasite’s larvae, which is then carried in the blood to the central nervous system. This can result in eosinophilic meningitis, which is characterized in the early stages by severe and acute headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting, and stiffness of the neck, and can result in death or permanent brain damage.

Chou said that it was once believed that eating giant African snails could cure certain illnesses and that there were frequent reports in Taiwan of infections of this type of roundworm.

A 70-year-old man in Kaohsiung was treated for the same conditions in 2007 after eating raw frogs in an effort to cure back pain.

Another case in 2005 saw Hualien’s Tzu-Chi Buddhist General Hospital treat a 48-year-old man who had become infected with the parasite after eating raw snails.

In 1998, eight Thai workers came down with eosinophilic meningitis as result of eating raw snails and in 1999, Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital reported that nine Thai laborers had been infected with rat lungworms.

In light of the recent case, the DOH said it would contact Thai authorities to step up health education to avoid a recurrence of the problem.

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Latest News Updated 3.4.2009

Invasive snail in Louisiana, spreading

Mar 3, 2009 10:24 AM, By David Bennett

Farm Press Editorial Staff

With a humid climate, a plethora of connected waterways and cornucopia of flora and fauna, Louisiana — like Florida and Hawaii — seems particularly inviting to invasive species. The channeled apple snail has certainly found Louisiana to its liking and agriculture officials are hoping the state’s rice farmers don’t have another pest to contend with.

Native to the Amazon basin, the snail can grow to the size of a man’s fist. The snail’s appetite is voracious; it multiplies quickly and has become a major drain on Asian rice yields. Now one of the most important pests in Filipino and Indonesian rice production, it is also in the Dominican Republic, where it caused substantial rice yield losses the first three years after it was introduced.

The snail was found in Texas in 2001. Mo Way, a Texas A&M entomologist, says it hasn’t impacted the Texas rice crop. However, most of Texas’ crop is in a drilled-seeded system, “so there’s more of a delayed flood,” says Natalie Hummel, LSU AgCenter entomologist. “Rice doesn’t have water on it until it’s quite large.

“We don’t know what the potential for this snail is on Louisiana’s rice but we certainly have much more water-seeded acreage, much more which would seem susceptible. If snails get into rice, farmers would find areas of their field where plants are clipped just below the water surface.”

Fortunately, the snail hasn’t been found in a Louisiana rice field yet.

“When it happens, a grower will probably be draining a field and find one of the large shells. Anyone who finds one needs to contact us. There may be some things we can do to help.”

Hummel was recently in Plaquemines Parish near some ditches alongside citrus groves. “There were tons of the snails in the ditches — they were rolling over each other. The numbers were incredible.”

How did the snails get to Louisiana?

“Apparently through the pet trade,” says Michael Massimi, invasive species coordinator with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. Unlike in Asia, where the snails were brought for the escargot trade before escaping, the United States “imported them for pets, not food. They’re popular in aquariums because they’re large with a handsome shell. They’re fun to watch because they’re so active.”

There are several features that make the channeled apple snail a particularly formidable pest. One is an operculum, “a sort of bony plate that acts as a shell door,” says Massimi. “Most snails don’t have that — you can poke them out with a toothpick. You can’t do that with this species once they seal that door shut.”

If trapped on land or in poor water quality, the snails are capable of sealing the operculum shut and going dormant for months. “When conditions are right, they pop back out. If they’re buried in the mud, they have to dry out for a year, or more, before they’ll die.”

The snail also has both a gill and a lung. “You’ll sometimes see them crawl to the water surface and put out this long, snorkel-like apparatus that they draw air through. They do that when water quality gets poor. Even in ponds overgrown with algae where fish are dying, the snail has no problem.”

The snail was first discovered in Louisiana in 2006 in a drainage basin near Gretna. “They were fairly isolated for a while and we kept an eye on that area. But since then several other populations popped up that, it appears to me, didn’t come from the original find. It seems to be multiple releases.”

Someone got tired of them and tossed their aquarium contents?

“That’s so common. And it may not be a case of being tired of them. The person may love them — ‘hey, I want this in my backyard pond!’”

The snail reproduces in a manner “typical” for an aggressive, invasive species, says Massimi. Once mated, the females are capable of laying fertilized eggs for months. Each egg cluster holds 200 to 600 eggs.

The adult snails live underwater but the eggs are laid above it. Any kind of control must target both.

“It’s a difficult critter to deal with. The eggs are highly visible — they look like a chewed piece of pink bubblegum. The clusters are usually only a foot or two above the waterline and look like nothing else around here. When you see pink clumps, the snails are around.”

The snails’ impact in other states has been “highly variable. Someone with a wildlife agency in Florida told me he will drive down a road that has a pond on both sides. Both ponds will be infested with snails. On the left, the pond is denuded of vegetation, is murky and algae-filled — there is an obvious aesthetic impact. On the right, the pond has the same number of snails with no visual impact. It’s very strange and we haven’t parsed out why there are such differences.”

Regardless, Massimi expects Louisiana vegetation to take a big hit. He predicts most of the plants Louisianans are used to seeing around waterways and along bayous will be the first to go.

Interestingly, a lot of that vegetation is also invasive — elephant ear, parrot feather, water hyacinth. But “I must warn that these snails are not a solution to control that vegetation — because they’ll also take out the native species that are already under threat: cattails, duck potato, duckweed, and bull tongue. The snails are indiscriminant.”

With fewer plants, there will be murkier water, water that’s more easily stirred up with sediment. That means “we’ll have more algae-dominated water-bodies. That impacts not only the aesthetics but also wildlife habitat.”

There are a few predators of the snail. Crawfish will eat them when they’re small enough. But the snails grow quickly to outsize adult crawfish.

River otters do eat the snails. Raccoons will, as well, when they find them while foraging at the water’s edge. Unfortunately, the otter populations aren’t near the densities that will dent the snail invasion.

The wading birds — egrets and herons — will also eat the snails, if able. Young alligators will also eat them.

“But I don’t expect to get much help in controlling the snail numbers from native fauna.”

Massimi says there are few control options. “It’s a big problem. There is no snail-specific pesticide. Anything we’d put in the water to control them would affect, if not everything in the water, then at least the other invertebrates. Toxins we might use on one invertebrate will also harm another. And we don’t want to hurt crawfish and the like.”

In the case of an isolated pond, “sure, you could go take out the whole thing and then restock it. But in southern Louisiana that’s rare since all the water bodies are connected. That’s certainly true whenever there’s a heavy rain.”

There is ongoing research at the National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., on snail controls. Several new chemicals show promise. “One is a saponin, a naturally-occurring toxin that’s soap-like and breaks down membranes. Preliminarily, there is some evidence this toxin has some success against the snail.”

Of all the states trying to control this snail, Hawaii is the most advanced. When the snails came into Hawaii, the taro crop was decimated.

Hawaiians found their best control was a multi-pronged effort. “They used some carnivorous ducks and other predators, allowing fields to lie fallow for a year or two — drying out the ground, chemicals and everything else they could think of. That’s allowed them to get the snail to more manageable numbers in the higher taro production areas.”

Among other things, Florida uses volunteers to strap on boots and wade into waterways to knock snail eggs off and crush them, scoop up the adults with nets. This must be repeated every few months.

“They’ll never get them all but they are trying to keep numbers to a minimum. It is very labor-intensive, though. Volunteers wear out pretty quickly.”

The snails are edible and, by some accounts, are tasty. Massimi hasn’t had one, though, and doesn’t recommend them.

“Aside from the common diseases our native species carry like swimmer’s itch, this species of snail carries a particular parasite called rat lungworm. It’s dangerous and can be ingested if the snails aren’t properly cooked. If you eat this thing, make damned sure to cook it thoroughly.”

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com

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Mystery surrounds health scare that forced Fat Duck to close

Tests fail to reveal the origins of the outbreak as restaurant loses business

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Monday, 2 March 2009

Heston Blumenthal is awaiting test results from an environmental health investigation into the mystery illness that has struck dozens of diners at his Fat Duck restaurant. Laboratory analyses of swabs from cookers and food samples, along with further tests on chefs and waiters, are due to be released in batches today and tomorrow. The chef could reopen The Fat Duck as soon as Wednesday but there is no date set yet amid the ongoing investigation and the 42-year-old’s promise to “exhaust every avenue” before declaring it safe.

Blumenthal shut the restaurant in Berkshire last week, cancelling 450 reservations at a cost of £80,000, after more than 30 diners called in over a period of three weeks to report vomiting, diarrhoea and flu-like symptoms.

Theories for the outbreak include food poisoning and a staff member carrying a virus. Yesterday Blumenthal’s spokesman Oliver Wheeler called Windsor and Maidenhead council’s microbiological tests “very thorough”.

Blumenthal’s own team, Food Alert, is also testing the menu at the three-Michelin-star restaurant, whose unusual recipes include nitro green tea and salmon poached in liquorice.

“We are waiting to see what comes back,” Mr Wheeler said. “All the tests that are back proved negative in terms of hygiene. Although there have been hundreds of hours of testing, nothing has been connected to the restaurant.”

He dismissed as fanciful the suggestion in a Sunday newspaper that the outbreak could have been an act of sabotage from affluent villagers in Bray disgruntled with noise and fumes.

Diners from around the world travel to eat at The Fat Duck, voted the world’s best restaurant in 2005 and the only one in the UK to receive 10 out of 10 in the current Good Food Guide.

The illness has been the talk of food enthusiasts, with some commenting that the unusual dishes must have been responsible. One reader wrote on The Independent website: “Surely, diners who consider snail porridge an acceptable feast must be used to a variety of drastic stomach and bowel reactions?”

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Was it the snail porridge? Diners’ mystery illness forces Fat Duck to close

By Martin Hickman, Consumer affairs correspondent, The Independent

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Heston Blumenthal’s menu at the Fat Duck in Bray has made him a global celebrity and snail porridge, is among the best-known dishes.

One of Britain’s most famous restaurants has closed its doors after up to 40 diners fell ill after eating there, it emerged yesterday.

Heston Blumenthal took the decision to shut the Michelin-starred Fat Duck at Bray on Tuesday after dozens of customers rang the restaurant to say they had been struck down by a vicious illness which left them with flu-like symptoms, vomiting or diarrhoea.

The wunderkind of British cooking and Channel 4 TV presenter told The Independent he will keep his £130-a-head eaterie closed until further notice, or at least until he can trace the source of the mystery illness or eliminate his premises as its source.

Staff have called hundreds of guests to cancel their reservations. Tests on ingredients for potential food poisoning bugs are due within the next few days, along with virology tests on his 60-strong staff.

An environmental health officer from Maidenhead and Windsor Council has been conducting tests on samples of food, along with a company which Blumenthal took on six weeks ago to routinely test ingredients, Food Alert.

Last night Blumenthal said he had taken the decision to close because he could not bear the thought that his passion, the Fat Duck, had been responsible for making people ill. “Wherever this has come from it’s extremely upsetting. It’s deeply upsetting,” the 42-year-old chef admitted.

“We are going to completely exhaust every avenue we can go down. I don’t want another person phoning up the restaurant. It’s horrible to hear one person phoning.”

He said: “We called in the local council, Maidenhead and Windsor, and an environmental health officer was here on Tuesday and they are very satisfied with all the steps we are taking but we haven’t found anything.

“All the tests have come up negative. So it’s a complete mystery. I’m not prepared [for the restaurant] to operate until this is done and dusted.”

The problems began three weeks ago when customers began phoning to say they had fallen ill after visiting the Fat Duck in the affluent commuter village in Berkshire. The restaurant, famous for dishes such as snail porridge and sardine on toast sorbet, is one of only three in the country with three Michelin stars.

“A few weeks ago, we had calls about people who had fallen ill and you take it very seriously. Also my wife and daughter had a virus and there was something going around. And then we got a few more [phone calls] in and then we stepped up the testing and doing everything in more detail. And then last week we got some more calls and at the weekend we thought, ‘We’ve got to close the restaurant’. “

Blumenthal, whose most recent TV show involved creating a new menu for Little Chef, estimated that between 30 and 40 people had fallen ill.

Closing the restaurant for a week has cost him “tens of thousands of pounds” since the last meals were served at Sunday lunch; the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Blumenthal said that one theory was that a member of staff may be carrying a virus but showing no symptoms. Test results that have come back so far for up to 14 staff have been negative.

Separately, further tests are being done on the restaurant’s food but they are a logistical challenge because dozens of different ingredients can go into a single dish and the Fat Duck receives “thousands” of ingredients from around 30 suppliers.

The restaurant serves several dishes with seafood – a common cause of food poisoning – such as jelly of quail with langoustine and oyster, passion fruit jelly and lavender, but Blumenthal said: “There’s no evidence to suggest it’s food poisoning.

“I made the decision to make people aware of this because everything has been done completely from the heart and all we want to do is to give pleasure to the customer. We never cut corners on anything and this is the same.”

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Strange reptiles, fish and spiders – rare, smuggled and very illegal – have captured the hearts of Vietnamese collectors

http://www.thanhniennews.com (Vietnam) 2/17/2009

Rare pets are often brought into Vietnam illegally by small unlicensed shop owners. Nguyen, one such unofficial shopkeeper, sells lizards and snakes from his house on Minh Phung Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 6. He keeps only 10 creatures at a time, as pet owners have to register pet collections of more than 10 with local authorities. When the correspondents visited, Nguyen was showing off a collection of newts, skinks and ball pythons. Nguyen says he stores rare animals at different places all over the city, ready for pick-up whenever a customer orders one.

At another pet shop on Phu Nhuan District’s Huynh Van Banh Street, a blue-tongued skink (a type of lizard) is priced at VND3.5 million ($200) while an African python goes for more than VND2 million ($114). The shop owner, who requested anonymity, says he is the first to bring the particular skink and python to Vietnam. He says he’s already distributed several around the country. For more than VND2 million, people can buy a 20-centimeter South American tegu lizard, but they need around VND3 million ($172) to own a North American freshwater turtle, the shop owner says. Size, color, species and the ability to change colors all affect an animal’s price, he says. But the most important factor is how rare the creature is. A beautiful common lizard can be sold for VND700,000 ($40) while uglier but rare ones are bought for VND6 million.

They are smuggled from Indonesia, Africa, America and Amazonia to China, Thailand and Hong Kong before entering Vietnam. The shop owner on Huynh Van Banh Street says he travels to China or Thailand every one or two months to fetch the animals. Nguyen says he’s built a “good relationship” with customs officers and that many other smugglers have done the same.

The proper channels

Thai Truyen, deputy director of the representative office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in southern Vietnam, said people should not sell or raise rare animals without approval from the appropriate authorities. Truyen said the animals could reproduce and easily damage ecosystems here. He said golden apple snails had already invaded and eaten rice in the Mekong Delta thanks to illegal smuggling.

Hanoi-based Do Quang Tung, head of CITES Vietnam, said any and all animals must be approved by CITES before being brought to Vietnam for the first time. He said the agency must check to make sure the animal is not harmful to other creatures and the rest of the ecological environment.

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80 tons of banned pesticides slipped into Taiwan market

The China Post, February 13, 2009

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A total of 80 tons of banned or substandard pesticides smuggled from China may have slipped onto store shelves around Taiwan, the Council of Agriculture (COA) confirmed Friday. The pesticides, believed to be sold at 20 retailers around the island, include long-banned fentin acetate, a lethal poison against crop-depleting apple snails and 10 other illegal substances such as cyromazine, acetamiprid and bismerthiazol, COA Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine officials said.

Fentin acetate has been banned across the board in Taiwan since 1997 because, according to COA officials, the chemical has been linked to central nervous system damage among humans and embryos. Taichung County Police confirmed on Thursday that they have arrested nine suspects for smuggling and selling banned or counterfeit pesticides from China. According to police, the banned substances have been mixed with regular pesticides and may have slipped into the local market.

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Nice anthem addition

Jack Wingate

Published Tuesday, February 10, 2009, Post-Searchlight (Bainbridge/Decatur County)

A note out of the past, that lets me know that America is on the right track. At the BASS Southern Open on the Harris Chain, when the National Anthem was being played, four bald eagles set up a circle pattern and kept circling for some time.

The Seminole Division of C&R Tournament Series took place in 17-degree weather. The wind was about 15 to 18 miles per hour. Matt Baty won it with 18.85 pounds of bass and a 6.75-pound big fish. Mr. Clay Johns of Covington, Ga., had a 9-pound bass he caught. A fine bass note in a tournament though. Mr. Brown came in with a 12-pound striper and a 4-pound hybrid.

And, by the way, the Apple Snail is growing in leaps and bounds in Lake Seminole.

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Posted on: Sunday, February 8, 2009

Disease outbreak on Big Island raising alarm among residents

By Diana Leone

Advertiser Staff Writer

The rat lungworm disease that put two Big Island residents into comas is bringing attention to an illness confirmed in only 33 cases in Hawai’i since 2001. “Having a cluster of illnesses is not unusual. Having a cluster this severe is distinctly unusual,” said Dr. Jon Martell, Hilo Medical Center’s director of the hospital’s in-house physicians.

Life-threatening comas from a disease caught by eating poorly washed backyard vegetables have “got everybody’s attention,” Martell said. “This is a teachable moment.” Many Puna district residents have learned in recent years that the parasite (Angiostrongyliasis cantonensis) can be ingested by eating backyard vegetables contaminated by infected slugs or snails.

In recent weeks, the two Big Island residents in comas have opened and moved their eyes, responding to friends and family. Yet Silka Strauch, 38, and Graham McCumber, 24, still have “a long and rocky road to go,” said Lyn Howe, McCumber’s aunt. Strauch has been in a coma since Dec. 8 and McCumber for several weeks. Both are at Hilo Medical Center and are being fed through tubes. Both are breathing on their own after having been on a breathing machine, friends and relatives said.

A third Big Island resident, Zsolt Halda, 36, was treated for the disease and released in January but continues to be extremely weak. Halda said he lost 30 pounds in four weeks and suffered excruciating pain, but “compared to the other two, I’m getting off easy.”

Lorena Wong, an O’ahu woman who is recovering from a bout of the disease contracted last year, said she is still taking painkillers to cope with its lingering effects on her nervous system.

Most of the 2,827 rat lungworm cases reported in worldwide medical literature have been in China, Taiwan and Thailand, where in some areas consumption of raw or lightly cooked snails and slugs is common practice, according to the October 2008 Lancet Infectious Disease journal.

Of the 116 cases reported in the United States, many were people who had traveled to places where the parasite is common. The entire state of Hawai’i is one of those places. Hawai’i’s first confirmed cases were in 1962. The state Health Department knows of 33 cases from 2001 to now. But state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said it is not known how many people have suffered through a milder form of the disease. Total reported Hawai’i cases before 2000 weren’t available late last week.

Symptoms can range from headache, joint pain and other symptoms that resolve on their own, to blindness, nerve damage and death. Slugs and snails in Hawai’i are known to carry the rat lung-worm, a nematode named because it hatches in the lungs of rats. From there, the larvae pass through rat feces to slugs, snails or other mollusks. People who ingest snails or slugs that contain the parasite can get a rare form of meningitis — infection of the spinal fluid.

There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to cope with the body’s response to the invasion of the worm into the spinal fluid and brain.

Park said she’s working now on ways to remind doctors and other medical professionals that rat lungworm disease is out there. “It’s not as simple as it seems,” Park said, because early stages of the disease could resemble other medical problems. And testing, which requires taking spinal fluid, doesn’t always reveal the parasites, even in someone who has them.

“A person with tingling or itching in a limb may not want to get a spinal tap” — especially if the results are inconclusive,” Park said.

“A lot of people just tough it out, with excruciating pain,” Howe said. “There are people who had it years ago and to this day can’t wear long pants” because of continuing nerve sensitivity.

Meanwhile, a recent medical test showed reduced swelling in Strauch’s brain, which is good news, said her friend, Kristina Mauak.

Strauch’s parents and brother, who flew over from Germany after she got ill, stay at her bedside, stroking her feet, combing her hair and playing music for her, Mauak said.

Of McCumber, Howe said: “If you hold a picture up, he looks at it. If he hears your voice, he will open his eyes.” But how much recovery he will ultimately make, “nobody really knows.”

Reach Diana Leone at dleone@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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DOH: Wash produce thoroughly

By The Garden Island

Published: Saturday, January 31, 2009 3:10 AM HST

HONOLULU — The state Department of Health is advising the public to wash produce thoroughly to help prevent exposure to pesticides, bacteria and parasites such as angiostrongylus, or rat lung worm.

The DOH identified six probable cases of illness caused by angiostongylus in 2008, according to a state news release. All individuals were residents of the island of Hawai‘i and regularly ate fresh raw vegetables from backyard gardens.

The parasite angiostrongylus cantonensis causes a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis or angiostrongyliasis. The condition is also referred to as “rat lung worm” because rats are part of the life cycle of the parasite. The parasite is found in snails, slugs, freshwater prawns, crabs fish and possibly the flatworm in Hawai‘i. Eating uncooked snails, slugs, freshwater prawns and fish can cause the rare infection, which can lead to serious illness.

“It’s important to always wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating them to remove insects, parasites, bacteria and other possibly harmful contaminants,” said Dr. Sarah Park, DOH State Epidemiologist and Chief of the Disease Outbreak Control Division. Keeping home gardens free of rodents, snails and slugs can also reduce the risk of rat lung worm disease.

Signs of rat lung worm disease can include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and other problems related to the brain and spinal cord. Most patients recover from the infection without treatment. If you think you may have angiostrongyliasis, see your health care provider and let him/her know of your exposures.

The DOH warns that freshwater prawns, crabs or fish and mollusks such as snails should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Sufficient heat (boiling 3-5 minutes) kills the parasites. Thoroughly wash fresh vegetables and fruit before consuming and visually inspect to be sure they are free of slugs or snails. Controlling rodents, snails and slugs around your home will also decrease the risk of exposure.

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Introduced animals becoming pests

by Jagath Gunawardana of the Island Online (Sri Lanka) January 28, 2009

A number of inquiries were made from me during the past week about those introduced species of animals that have become pests in Sri Lanka. Since public awareness is very much required in this area, it is indeed gladdening to see interest being evinced. An animal that is not native to Sri Lanka, whether deliberately brought in or accidentally imported, is called an introduced species and is also called an alien species or an exotic species.

An alien species that reproduces and spreads fast, causing harm to other species, whether to animals or plants or both, is called an alien invasive species. The term pest is narrow, meaning only those who harm plant life. A pest is not necessarily one which harms a crop plant and could be harmful to native plants as well. Hence, the term invasive is of a broader meaning and all pests could be considered as invasive, but not all invasive animals are pests.

A large number of animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate, have been introduced to Sri Lanka over the years and a significant number are breeding and maintaining populations in this country. Among these are those who have become invasive and some of these harm plant, thus becoming pests. Since the inquiries were about those that have become pests, let us give [an] example to get a clearer picture.

The Golden Apple Snail (Pomacia spp) is . . . recent introduction, being brought to Sri Lanka in the early 1980s as an ornamental aquarium animal due to its beauty as well as for its scavenging habits. It soon found its way into water bodies and is now found in the drains and canals in many urban and suburban areas. The exact identity of the species is still uncertain and it is possible that they are hybrids and three distinct forms were recognized during investigation. It is not certain whether they would become serious paddy pests as it has been in some Asian countries. However, it was seen that they feed on tender paddy plants in controlled conditions. What is of more concern to us is that they feed on aquatic plants and was seen feeding on native Aponogeton species (Kekatiya), an aspect that has not been looked into by the authorities. This snail needs to be studied more, to ascertain whether it could become an aquatic counterpart to the [invasive] Giant African Snail.

Any introduced species of animal that breeds in this country needs to be kept under surveillance and if it breeds and spreads fast, then it needs special attention. Such species show the potential of becoming invasive, once they escape or are released to the habitats. An invasive could be or not be a pest, but could have an adverse impact on one or more native species. Pests of crop plants are given special attention due to their adverse impact on productivity. Any observant person who detects an unknown species in the home garden or the area can play a vital role in the detection of an introduced species. In this context, the interest shown by people on such species is to be appreciated and encouraged.

http://www.island.lk/2009/01/28/features3.html

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Invasive species eating up Georgia, but DNR has a plan

Public can comment on state’s proposition to fight pests

By Debbie Gilbert

dgilbert@gainesvilletimes.com

Jan. 22, 2009

Any living thing that’s in a place where it’s not supposed to be can cause trouble. A new document released by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources describes how more than 180 species of plants and animals are threatening Georgia’s native wildlife, and it proposes ways to address the problem. A draft version of the Georgia Invasive Species Strategy is available for public comment until Feb. 16. Copies can be obtained from the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division by calling 770-761-3035. A PDF version is posted at The Times’ Web site, gainesvilletimes.com.

Jon Ambrose, assistant chief of the DNR’s nongame conservation section, said one of the plan’s goals is to tie together efforts that are taking place across the state. “Right now, there’s a lot of different organizations working independently,” he said. “We’re hoping to form a state invasive species council to provide oversight.”

Ambrose said they also want to get a sense of what they’re dealing with. “We need to do a rigorous inventory of invasive species, which has never been done on a statewide basis,” he said. But it’s like shooting at a moving target, because new species constantly are being introduced to Georgia. And by definition, these plants and animals expand their range swiftly and aggressively. Think kudzu and fire ants, to cite just two notorious examples.

Ambrose said invasive species can spread before anyone has time to develop a plan of action. “A few years ago, we weren’t worried about the hemlock woolly adelgid,” he said. Now, the Asian insect is well on its way to killing every hemlock tree in Georgia. Several area colleges and environmental groups are making valiant attempts to counteract the adelgid, but their efforts may be too late. “It is a real challenge (to keep up with new species),” said Ambrose. “You almost have to have a rapid-response protocol in place.”

Invasive species nearly always end up in the wrong places because of human activity. Sometimes it’s accidental. Plant seeds are tracked in on the bottom of people’s shoes. Mollusks cling to the bottom of boats. Insects hide in a load of imported lumber. But sometimes it’s intentional. Nurseries may buy exotic plants and sell them locally, despite knowing that the species is invasive.

“We need laws against people deliberately introducing invasive species,” said Connie Gray, president of the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council. “(This plan) is kind of a first step in getting this in front of lawmakers and the governor.” In addition to legislation, advocates would like to see more funding for prevention, eradication, inspection and enforcement. But with the state’s budget already overstretched, they recognize that it will be a hard sell.

On the other hand, the economic cost of ignoring the problem may be unacceptable. “Look at how much we spend on trying to eradicate fire ants,” said Ambrose, noting that it would have been cheaper to prevent the ants from invading Georgia in the first place. Gray said the state is paying anyway, because invasive species can have a devastating impact on agriculture, forestry and other industries. “It’s already costing billions of dollars, whether we like it or not,” she said.

For environmentalists, the cost isn’t just financial. Georgia currently ranks sixth in the nation for biological diversity, with an impressive variety of native plants and animals. But an aggressive invader quickly can wipe out local flora and fauna, which have no defenses against foreign species. Ambrose said if money for fighting invasive species is tight, the state should focus on cogongrass and other major offenders. Even then, it will be a constant battle. “It’s not doable to eradicate an invasive species throughout its range,” said Ambrose. “We’ll have to concentrate on where it encroaches on pristine areas.” And if we slack off, he said, the battle is lost. “The big challenge of invasive species is eternal vigilance.

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Rare form of meningitis plagues 2 from Big Isle

Both patients suffer comas after contracting the illness

By Gary Kubota http://www.starbulletin.com > News >

Jan 22, 2009

WAILUKU » A woman has shown signs of emerging from a coma on the Big Island, while a man remains unconscious on Oahu from a parasitic disease sometimes associated with eating home-grown produce.Silka Strauch, 38, a yoga instructor, was able to blink her eyes when a nurse entered her room and called her name at Hilo Medical Center earlier this week, said her friend Kristina Mauak.

Strauch also looked at her parents, Ralph and Gisela, and later took a deep breath at Mauak’s request. Mauak said yesterday that Strauch is now breathing on her own and was in a lighter comatose state but has not emerged from her coma. Mauak said Silka’s parents, who are from Germany, wanted to thank the public for their support, including monetary donations that are helping to bring her brother to the Big Island Saturday. “They’re overwhelmed by the incredible compassion,” Mauak said. Strauch, who is suffering from rat lungworm disease, slipped into a coma weeks ago. Meanwhile, Graham McCumber, 24, a construction worker and Big Island resident, remains in a coma at the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

The state Department of Health issued an advisory yesterday reminding the public to wash produce thoroughly to help to prevent exposure to pesticides, bacteria and parasites such as that which causes rat lungworm disease. State officials said six probable cases of the illness occurred in 2008, and all of them were Big Island residents who regularly ate fresh raw vegetables from backyard gardens. Health officials said signs of rat lungworm disease can include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness and other problems related to the brain and spinal cord. State health officials said most patients recover from the infection without treatment. The parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis causes a rare form of meningitis called “eosinophilic meningitis” or “angiostrongyliasis,” state health officials said. Health officials said the parasite is found in snails, slugs and freshwater prawns, crabs, fish and possibly the flatworm in Hawaii. Officials warned that eating uncooked snails, slugs, freshwater prawns and fish can cause the rare infection, which can lead to serious illness. Health officials said freshwater prawns, crabs or fish and mollusks such as snails should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Sufficient heat, boiling three to five minutes, kills the parasites.

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Hawaii

Disease is blamed on home-grown veggies

By Gary Kubota

http://www.starbulletin.com > News >

Jan 17, 2009

A second Big Island resident is in a coma with rat lungworm disease, a rare ailment that can cause significant pain and trauma, including paralysis and blindness. Graham McCumber, 24, of Kapoho has been in intensive care at the Queen’s Medical Center for the past few days, according to a family member and friend.

McCumber, a construction worker who also worked on an organic farm, is among three Big Island people recently afflicted with the disease. One of them, 38-year-old Silka Strauch of Black Sands, was admitted to Hilo Medical Center on Dec. 8 and has been in a coma for weeks.

Strauch’s friend Zsolt Halda, 34, also of Black Sands, was being cared for by his mother at a hotel on the Big Island, after being released from the hospital. Halda said he and Strauch probably contracted the disease after eating vegetables containing larvae of a slug that carries the rat lungworm. Like Halda and Strauch, McCumber grew his own vegetables. “To have a 24-year-old kid dying from eating a salad is beyond my comprehension,” said McCumber’s friend Dennis Letvin.

McCumber’s uncle Geoff Rauch said Graham, who was noticeably sick by Dec. 18, has sustained a lot of brain damage. “It doesn’t look good,” Rauch said. Rauch said he has known other people who have contracted the disease, but none as severe. “I think everyone is taken aback by this,” Rauch said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most victims recover from the disease. But the critical condition of McCumber and Strauch points out the potential for extreme consequences. The disease occurs when parasitic worms are passed from rat feces to slugs or snails and then to people. The worms usually die after several weeks but can cause significant pain and damage to the nervous system and, in some instances, paralysis, blindness and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Letvin, an organic farmer, said with economic hard times, people turning to backyard gardening should be aware of the dangers of growing leafy vegetables without taking precautions. “My concern is we night be hammering nails on our children’s coffins,” he said.

Letvin said he has pulled out all of his leafy vegetables and thrown them away because there was nothing in the world worth the suffering from the disease. He said he hopes government officials will work on a program to eliminate the rats and snails that carry the rat lungworm disease.

There is no diagnostic test that definitely confirms the presence of the disease, short of finding the parasite, and physicians rely partially on the likelihood of exposure through a patient’s food history, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

There is no medical treatment for the disease, and physicians treat the symptoms with pain relievers for aches and steroids for inflammation, Park said earlier this month.

Park said people cultivating home-grown vegetables need to clean them leaf by leaf, and warned that a species of slug on the Big Island has tiny larvae, about 1 to 2 millimeters long.

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Parasites cause intense pain for Big Isle victims

“The pain was so bad he screamed for hours.”

By Gary Kubota

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 05, 2009

WAILUKU, Hawaii

“It just got so intense, nothing took the pain away,” said Big Island resident Zsolt Halda, 36. “It felt like they were doing surgery on me and ripping out my organs.” Halda was a victim of what is commonly called rat lungworm disease, a rare ailment that has inexplicably hit three Big Island residents hard in the last few weeks. Dr. Jon Martell, the attending physician at Hilo Medical Center, said the three patients are the worst he has seen in his 14 years of treating such cases.

“Something’s different,” Martell said.

The disease arises from parasitic worms, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, sometimes ingested inadvertently by eating raw produce that contains a small snail or slug. The worms migrate through the human body and usually die after several weeks. Most people recover fully without treatment, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But sometimes the larvae migrate into cerebral fluid, causing inflammation in the brain and spinal cord membrane and a form of meningitis, according to a study by the state and CDC published in 2007. In some cases, rat lungworm disease can cause significant pain and trauma, including paralysis, blindness and death, as occurred in a fatal case in Taiwan in 1944, according to the study.

The study identified 24 rat lungworm cases in Hawaii from January 2001 to February 2005, including 11 on Oahu, nine on the Big Island, three on Maui and one on Lanai. Patients usually became sick in three days, but one took as long as 48 days, according to the study.

Halda said he and a friend, Silka Strauch, who live in Black Sands between Pahoa and Kalapana, have been eating raw vegetables and taking precautions by cleaning the produce with a peroxide rinse. He suspects they may have accidentally consumed tiny larvae of slugs lodged in the deep folds of peppers. Halda said Strauch came down with agonizing pain, but no one at Hilo Medical Center could find anything wrong with her initially and she was not admitted to the hospital. “I had to take her home … three separate times,” he said. “No one should have to be turned away.”

Halda said Strauch was unable to walk and had pain so intense that even the slightest touch hurt her. “You couldn’t even put a sheet on her,” he said. He said Strauch was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 8, and he was admitted on Dec. 15. Strauch has been in a coma for several days, he said.

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said there is no diagnostic test that confirms the presence of rat lungworm disease, short of finding the parasite, and physicians have to rely partially on the likelihood of possible exposure through a patient’s food history.

She said in certain instances, an analysis of spinal fluid can indicate the likelihood of rat lungworm disease. Park said there is no medical treatment for the disease, and physicians treat the symptoms with pain relievers for aches and steroids for inflammation.

Beatrix Pfleiderer, another friend of Strauch’s, said she fears the disease poses a “rising danger.” A 24-year-old Puna man was admitted to Hilo Medical Center with a case last week. She said others have contracted the disease but have not gone to the hospital because they do not have medical insurance. Park said the movement to consume home-grown produce is great and that people simply dunk produce in water and assume it is clean.

“You’ve got to clean each leaf,” she said. “Our biggest challenge is constantly reminding people about the risks.” Park said a species of slug on the Big Island has tiny larvae, about 1 to 2 millimeters long. The presence of the Southeast Asian slug, Parmarion martens, was noticed about 10 years ago and has spread rapidly, said Robert Hollingsworth, an entomologist with the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center.

“The concern is when it’s very small and hard to see,” he said.

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Farming the biological way

The Star, Malaysia, January 15, 2009

THE Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has urged farmers not to use pesticide excessively but opt for the biological method of countering the infestation of the brown plant hopper which it claims has recently destroyed some 200ha of padi fields in the Muda Agricultural Development Authority area in Kedah.

CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said pesticides would kill environmental friendly insects like spiders, frogs and beetles. He said padi farmers should use spiders, dragonflies, spleen beetles and frogs to get rid of the hoppers as they ate the eggs of the pest. He said such a biological method was also a very cost-effective way to kill the pest.

“I hope the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries will promote this method to farmers as the hopper is the main threat to agricultural crops,” Mohamed Idris said in a statement yesterday.He said the brown plant hoppers were fast breeders with a pair able to produce between 450,000 and 800,000 young in just 25 days in a 0.28ha padi field.

Meanwhile, the Kedah Farmers Organisation wants the Federal Government to provide aid to the farmers here to fight pests that are destroying their crops. Its chairman Datuk Badri Yunus said they could not afford the cost of fighting the pests such as the brown plant hoppers and siput gondang emas (golden apple snails). He hopes the government could also provide such funding and suitable pesticides to control the pests as the current pesticide available in the market is “not so strong”.

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APPLE SNAIL INVASION

By Emily Turner WVLA, Baton Rouge, La

December 8, 2008

Its large size and impressive exterior makes the apple snail an aquarium favorite. But Brac Salyers, an invasive species expert at the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries claims the aquarium is the only place they belong. “When people get tired of their aquariums the easiest thing to do is dump it into the local bayou and thats when you have problems.”

Apple Snails are Native to South America. They were introduced to Southeast Asia for human consumption, but somehow found their way to crop fields. The snails have not been sighted here in Baton Rouge. But there are currently three known populations in Louisiana. Salyers fears if the snails spread, it could spell disaster for the Southwestern part of the state.

“If they get on a side of a barge and the eggs could spread across the state and we could get snails in the crawfish and rice farms.” The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is not discouraging people from owning exotic aquarium pets, they just ask the public to refrain from releasing them out into the wild.

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Biopesticide may solve zebra mussel problem

Sunday, November 23, 2008

By Sara Foss

Gazette Reporter, Albany, NY

CAPITAL REGION — Natives of Russia, Zebra mussels arrived to the United States 20 years ago and quickly spread throughout the country. By 1989, they had made their way to New York; a year later, they were already causing problems. Considered an invasive species, the tiny mollusk is notorious for clogging the intake pipes of power plants, and damaging boats and harbors. The only way to get rid of them was by using highly toxic, polluting pesticides. But that’s about to change.

A New York State Museum researcher has created a non-toxic alternative pesticide, using a natural bacterium that zebra mussels can feed on in small quantities, but will kill them if they eat too much of it.“Anything that kills a pest is considered a pesticide,” said Dr. Daniel Molloy, director of the Museum’s Field Research Laboratory in Cambridge. “This is not a chemical pesticide. This is a biological pesticide.”

The pesticide, which also kills the invasive quagga mussel, a relative of the zebra mussel, is likely to be available next year. Though it was invented and patented by the New York State Museum, it will be sold by the Museum’s commercial partner, Marrone Organic Innovations, based in Davis, Calif. Earlier this year the company received a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to commercialize the pesticide, and the New York State Museum received $275,000.

“[Zebra and quagga mussels] are a very big problem,” said Pam Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Organic Innovations. “They increase costs dramatically. You can use chlorine to take care of them, but chlorine is [toxic].” She said the biopesticide will not harm the environment, because using it does not pose the same types of risks as using toxic chemicals.

In the 1980s, Molloy helped develop a biological pesticide that was used to kill black flies. Previously, he said, black flies in the Adirondacks were killed by spraying a chemical pesticide out of airplanes. A decade later, the state Department of Environmental Conservation approached Molloy and asked if he would be interested in trying to develop a non-chemical pesticide for zebra mussels.

Molloy knew little about mussels or clams — “I said, ‘I’ve never worked on mussels or clams before,’ ” he recalled — but was willing to give it a try. In 1991, a group of power companies provided the start-up money for the project, a $700,000 six-year grant. The project was almost canceled several years later.

Molloy had looked at more than 700 strains of soil bacteria, hoping to find a strain that would kill zebra mussels, but his efforts were fruitless. He told the power companies he wasn’t sure he should continue, but they told him to keep working. It was good advice. Within two months, he found the strain of bacteria that worked: Pseudomonas fluorescens.

Zebra mussels feed on Pseudomonas fluorescens as a matter of course, but a larger-than-usual amount of the bacteria, which is naturally present in lake water, can kill them. “It’s a question of dose,” Molloy said. “If you go to a pipe, and add a million times more [Pseudomonas fluorescens], and create artificially high densities of bacteria, they will feed on it until they die.”

Denise Meyer, the New York State Museum’s chief scientist, developed the culturing methods to grow Pseudomonas fluorescens so that it would be as effective as possible. Scientist Mike Gaylo developed the protocol for treating zebra and quagga mussels with Pseudomonas fluorescens.

Power companies, in particular, were interested in Molloy’s project.

Although hot water can kill zebra mussels — “If you’re up above 85 degrees, you’re in the lethal zone,” said Molloy — most power plants are unable to circulate hot water throughout their pipes, and it would be expensive to retrofit the plants so that they could do that. “Most infrastructures rely on a broad spectrum of chemicals to clean out the pipes,” Molloy said. “It’s very effective, but it’s highly risky.”

Molloy said the biopesticide could also be in other contained places, such as fish hatcheries, but right now there is no way to use it in a large open water body. “That’s still unexplored,” he said, adding that it would be possible to seal in a marina and flood it with the biopesticide to kill the mussels.

Early next year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will demonstrate the use of Pseudomonas fluorescens at Davis Dam, on the lower Colorado River in Bullhead City, Ariz. “They want to know if [Pseudomonas fluorescens] can be used in a dam to kill quagga mussels,” Molloy said.

http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2008/nov/23/1123_mussels/

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Peña: Freeing up Laguna Lake

By Rox Peña – – Sun Star Pampanga

DURING a courtesy call to the then newly-installed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza, our group asked him what his priorities are as the nation’s top environmentalist. Secretary Atienza turned his attention to the Laguna Lake. Why is Laguna Lake so important? It is the largest freshwater lake in the Philippines and the largest freshwater basin in Southeast Asia.

Aside from being a major food source and a possible source of fresh water, Laguna de Bay is home for various species of plants and animals. About 48 percent of flowering plants and ferns endemic to the Philippines are found within the lake basin.

Many people living within the watershed depend on the lake for food. High commercial value fish like milkfish or bangus, tilapia, carp, Thai catfish or hito, ayungin, and biya are grown in the lake. There are about 269 species of plants, fishes, and various kinds of aquatic organisms.

Aside from man-made problems, the Laguna Lake ecosystem is affected by the introduction of invasive exotic species that compete with native species for food and space. The Thai catfish displaced the native catfish and the golden apple snail displaced the native snail Pila luzonica. I guess this is what happened too with our native catfish here in Pampanga. The giant African Catfish has displaced the smaller but tastier native “hito.”

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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

ANIMAL TRACKER

GOLDEN APPLE SNAIL

By ROWAN HOOPER of the JAPAN TIMES

Japanese name: Sukumiringogai

Scientific name: Pomacea canaliculata

Description: A fairly large snail with a shell 40 to 60 mm wide and 45 to 75 mm high, and coloration varying from yellow and green to dark brown; some have spiral bands. The tentacle-like antennae are hidden under the shell at rest.

Where to find them: Originally, in Argentina, from where they spread to other parts of South America, then to the southern United States. They were introduced to Taiwan in the 1980s with the idea of farming the mollusk for food, and they spread from there, colonizing Southeast Asia, then southern China and Japan. Now they are found in waters from Honshu to Kyushu and Okinawa.

Food: Plants; this snail’s voracious appetite makes it ill-suited for aquariums, and it is seen as an invasive pest in some areas.

Special features: Amphibious animals, Golden apple snails (like other snails in this family) are unusual in having both lungs and gills. The body is divided to accommodate both forms of breathing apparatus, with the gills on the right side and a lung on the left. The snails spend daylight hours underwater, breathing through their gills, emerging onto land and switching to air-breathing at night while searching for plants to feed on. Their activity rate depends on temperature, but they are fairly tolerant of cold weather. The operculum – the “door” of the shell – is tight-fitting, protecting them from dehydration. If the oxygen content of water is low, the snails can extend a breathing siphon out of the water like a snorkel, and draw in air through it. There is no distinct reproductive season, but egg-laying increases the warmer it gets. Golden apple snails become sexually mature when they reach 2.5 cm in size, and females lay between 200 and 600 bright-orange eggs.

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MYANMAR: Cyclone-hit farmers battle snails

26 Sep 2008 10:23:25 GMT

THONEGWA, 26 September 2008

An unidentified freshwater snail has left scores of paddy farmers in southern Myanmar reeling. In the wake of Cyclone Nargis – which left nearly 140,000 people dead or missing in May – farmers cite an increase in the invasive species. Experts believe the snails were washed up by the sea’s tidal surge when it submerged more than 783,000ha of rice paddy fields or 63 percent of paddy land in the affected areas. The snails devastate rice fields by feeding on the base of paddy seedlings, as well as on plant leaves and stems, say specialists, and are capable of consuming the young plants overnight. They prefer young plant parts that are soft because the snails feed by scraping the plant surface with their rough tongue, the experts add. “We coped with the few snails and sea crabs that appeared before. We simply collected them and destroyed them,” said Tint Naing, a paddy farmer from Thonegwa Village, Kunchangone Township, in Myanmar’s cyclone-affected Yangon Division, collecting a handful of the pests in his hand.

But according to specialists, it is unlikely that the freshwater Malaysian Trumpet Snail (Melanoides Tuberculata) in his hands, commonly found in aquariums, is the culprit.

“It seems to me quite strange and even quite impossible that this species was responsible for the damage observed in the rice fields,” one leading snail expert in France told IRIN.

Such snails feed on minute particles or organic waste and reportedly never feed on aquatic plants, he explained. And though an increase in their numbers in the aftermath of Nargis was possible, a more likely suspect would be the Golden Apple Snail (GAS) (Pomacea Canaliculata), a freshwater snail commonly found in Asia, with a voracious appetite for water plants including lotus, water chestnut, taro and rice, he said.

Major rice pest

Originally from South America, the GAS is described as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species by the Global Invasive Species Database [see: http://www.issg.org/database/welcome/%5D, which aims to increase awareness about invasive alien species and to facilitate effective prevention measures.

Its invasiveness is related to its inherent characteristics: a high reproductive rate, adaptability to harsh environmental conditions, ability to invade diverse habitats through multiple pathways, a wide range and voracious appetite, and an ability to compete with native species and native fauna, stated a report by Revindra Joshi of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute [see: http://www.irri.org/publications/irrn/pdfs/vol30no2/mini.pdf%5D.

Once the GAS has established its presence, controlling it is difficult.

According to the institute [see: http://www.philrice.gov.ph/%5D, managing problem snails is only possible once there is a clear understanding of the identity and biology of the pest species.

Growing numbers

Meanwhile, for farmers on the ground the prospects look grim. Many lost everything to Nargis and are struggling to rebuild their lives. The rural economy is based on agriculture, primarily rice, and approximately 50 to 60 percent of families in the Ayeyarwady Delta are engaged in agriculture, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“We have never seen so many. They have destroyed our fields,” said 30-year-old Tint Naing. “We’re observing how big this issue [snails] is in the delta and will help [farmers] solve it,” said Rene Suter, head of the emergency and rehabilitation coordination unit for the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in Yangon, the former capital. Yet for many hard-hit farmers it is already too late – many of the snails have already eaten their way through this year’s crop. Dangerous pesticides Lacking government or international assistance to deal with the menace, many farmers resorted to pesticide, only to have it kill everything else at the same time, including fish.

“We don’t know the name of it or its active ingredients, but it really kills the crabs though it cannot kill the snails,” said one exasperated farmer in Pyapon. Agricultural specialists are cautioning farmers to be better aware of the pesticides they use. “They [farmers] should check what kind of pesticide it is and its active ingredient … They should also check whether it is registered or not,” warned one agricultural expert from the Pioneer Post Harvest Development Group, a semi-governmental organisation. If the ingredient of a pesticide remains active for long time, it could be harmful to humans, the specialist said. Others offer a more conventional solution to the problem. “We would like to recommend mechanical control to get rid of snails and crabs,” Aung Kyi, an agricultural expert within FAO’s Emergency & Rehabilitation Coordination Unit in Myanmar, said. Traditionally, collecting the snails is easier for the farmers than using pesticides, Aung Kyi said.

“Currently, there is only one solution. Simply pick them up by hand and dispose of them. It’s unknown what kind of [pesticide] could destroy them because there has not been any test on it,” one researcher at Myanmar’s Yangon University told IRIN. lm/ds/mw

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9/23/08 Invasive Snails in the Appalachee River

AN ORANGE APPLE SNAIL, caught by Al Carter of Recovery, Ga., by Jack Wingate

Al Carter is my longtime friend and one of the great outdoorsmen I’ve ever met. He is untrained in the outdoors, but knows more about nature than anyone around.

Al called me to come over to his house and look at a snail he had caught. I took the camera and went. He had him in a trash can with a lid on it. He sed its an Orange Apple Snail. It was about the size of a Granny White Green Apple and was orange in parts of its shell. He is from South America. How he made it to the mouth of the Appalachee River I have no idea. But along the seawalls of his home and neighbors, all had pink eggs hanging as far as you could see. About a big table full. Hangin on the concrete.

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8/14/08

To the Fresh Water Gastropods of North America group:

In May we reported the discovery of a population of South American apple snails (Pomacea canaliculata or insularum) in a residential subdivision near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, extending the range of that invasive pest about 500 km north. This month we update our report with both good news and bad. We also report another surprise addition to the fauna of South Carolina, the native Florida apple snail (Pomacea paludosa), not typically considered to be an invasive species. The bad news is that our Pomacea canaliculata/insularum introduction in the Myrtle Beach area has turned out to be much more extensive and longstanding than we originally reported, with several additional populations discovered in residential areas during the months of June and July, as well as on a golf course. As of 8/1/08, biologists from the SC Department of Natural Resources had found evidence of infestation in 35 ponds and water bodies (PDF map). The good news is that the DNR has moved promptly and efficiently to eradicate the snails, and we are fairly confident of success. Media attention seems to have played an important role in mobilizing public sentiment. In late June, an invasion by ”harmful snails” or “worrisome snails” was the subject of several television news stories and reports in the Myrtle Beach Sun News (1), and at least one article in The State (2) newspaper in Columbia. Reports specifically mentioned a threat of meningitis, and included quotes like, “There’s thousands. They’re all over,” and “I was scared for the kids.” Notice the heavy rubber glove on the hand holding the snails in The Sun News photograph at left. This seems to have prompted the general citizenry of the Myrtle Beach area to inspect all the local ponds and ditches, and to contact the DNR with requests for eradication. Our colleagues at the South Carolina Aquatic Nuisance Species Program have responded with an aggressive program of copper sulfate application, and we do hope that the problem is coming under control. Posted by Dr. Robert Dillon, College of Charleston, Dillonr@cofc.edu

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Sun News, The (Myrtle Beach, SC)

2008-06-26

Worrisome snail sightings on rise

Island apple pest reported in two more Horry subdivisions

Mike Cherney, mcherney@thesunnews.com

The snails are spreading.

Officials from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources say the invasive island apple snail – which can pose human health risks and cause ecological damage – has probably slithered to two new subdivisions in Horry County.

The snail, most easily recognized by the gummy, pink pods of eggs it lays on the banks of ponds, was first identified last month in the Laurel Woods subdivision and the Heron Point Golf Club off S.C. 707. The DNR thinks someone may have dumped an aquarium in a Laurel Woods pond.

Now residents in the Brynfield Park and Glenmere subdivisions at S.C. 707 and S.C. 544 respectively also have spotted the snail, said Chris Page, the program manager of the DNR’s aquatic nuisance species program.

The snail, indigenous to South America, feeds off native vegetation and could pose a threat to native snail species. It also carries a parasite that can cause meningitis and be transferred to people if the snail is handled without gloves.

No cases have been reported in the U.S., but there have been cases in other countries.

Page said DNR officials will be visiting the subdivisions today to positively identify the snails and treat the infested ponds with copper sulfate, a federally approved pesticide often used to kill algae.

The problem may be bigger than DNR officials anticipated. The DNR was trying to eradicate the snails before they migrated to larger water bodies, like the Waccamaw River, but some residents report having seen the snails for years.

”We assumed they were insect eggs,” said Anthony Kell, who lives in the Glenmere subdivision and has noticed the eggs for the past three years. “There’s thousands. They are all over.”

David Knott, a marine biologist with the DNR, said the apple snails are popular in the commercial pet industry. State law theoretically bans the transportation of the snails without a DNR permit, but the rule’s ambiguity means it has not really been enforced, Knott said.

The DNR has never issued a permit for apple snails, he said. ”Once they are here, it’s very difficult to get rid of them,” Knott said of invasive species. “We have invasive species in South Carolina that have been here for so long, people think of them as native.”

Page said many of the ponds in the subdivisions have already been treated for algae, which could slow down the spread of the snails.

He also said natural predators could help keep the snails at bay. “There’s some fat raccoons that are having a big time with these snails,” he said.

Near the Heron Point Golf Club, Ben and Joyce Mann said they have noticed the snails in a pond behind their home. Joyce Mann said she didn’t pay much attention to them at first, but that has changed. “We’re both pretty worried about the snails,” she said. “It’s a good-looking lake, and we see a variety of waterfowl and fish, and we want it to stay healthy.”

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Biologists act fast to slow snail

Prolific invader seen near Mandeville

Sunday, July 20, 2008

By Charlie Chapple

State biologists are keeping a wary eye on three small ponds near Mandeville where a large snail, native to South America, has taken up residence. Already, the island apple snail — aptly named because its shell can get as big as the fruit — has spread from the drainage retention ponds in Emerald Pines and Casa Bella subdivisions and into nearby ditches along Louisiana 1088, according to a fisheries biologist with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

“Our concern is they’ll continue to spread,” said Brac Salyers, the agency’s aquatic nuisance species coordinator. “We don’t want them getting into our natural bayous and waterways to compete with our native species.”

The apple snail is commonly found in pet and aquarium shops. The South American invaders are believed to have been introduced to the native environment by someone emptying or freeing the snails from their aquarium into a retention pond, Salyers said.

“This is the third population that’s been reported in Louisiana,” he said.

In 2006, the apple snail was spotted in canals in Gretna, where they continue to thrive, Salyers said. In November, the snails were found in the swamps between Schriever and Chacahoula in Terrebonne Parish.

The snails are prodigious eaters and breeders, Salyers said. They eat almost all forms of aquatic vegetation. Although alligators, raccoons, turtles and fish prey on adult snails, there are no natural predators for their eggs, Salyers said.

“And their eggs hatch in alarming numbers,” he said.

In an effort to stop the infestation north of Mandeville, Wildlife and Fisheries agents have seined the three ponds, each less than one-half acre, four times during the past month to catch and kill the snails. They have also destroyed egg clusters laid by the snails 1 to 2 feet above the waterline.

The egg clusters are bubble-gum pink with 200 to 600 eggs, each about the size of a grape seed.

“You can drown the eggs by putting them under water,” Salyers said.

The agency has had help from Emerald Pines residents, who keep a regular watch for eggs and destroy the clusters when they see them.

“They come out every night and lay their eggs on the bank on the side of the ponds,” said Emerald Pines resident Alethea Brown.

The snails also lay eggs along drainage ditches on both sides of Louisiana 1088 and inside culverts, she said.

Salyers said his agency’s main concern is that the snail will get established in southeast Louisiana, compete with native species for food and forage and destroy vegetation needed by native fish and aquatic animals.

There is no threat to Lake Pontchartrain, Salyers said, because the snails have a very low tolerance for salinity.

“It’s the bayous and waterways that we’re worried about,” he said.

There is also a fear that the snails could migrate and spread to southwestern Louisiana, where they could threaten Acadiana’s rice crop, he said.

In the 1980s, apple snails were introduced into Taiwan and southeast Asia to start an escargot industry. They escaped from cultivation areas and have become a serious threat to rice cultivation and ecosystems in parts of southeast Asia.

In Gretna, apple snail eggs have been spotted on a barge next to a pumping station, ready to hitch a ride to another part of the state, Salyers said.

“It’s a matter of how do you stop them?” he said. “We’re doing what we can to keep them from spreading.”

Charlie Chapple can be reached at cchapple@timespicayune.com or 985.898.4828.

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Apple Snail Invades Langan Park Lake, Mobile, Alabama

June 24, 2008

By Kesshia Peyton Anchor/Reporter

A new type of animal has invaded the lake at Langan Park in Mobile. If you look closely, you’ll see pink clusters of eggs belonging to the South American Apple Snail.Thousands have showed up in the park’s lake and it doesn’t look they’re leaving anytime soon.

Wildlife officials believe someone may have dumped their aquarium into the lake, creating a breeding ground for the snails.The snails could destroy the habitat for all the other animals living in the water and that’s why pet stores no longer sell them.

“They’re now considered a nuisance animal and they’re afraid of them getting loose which is exactly what has happened. And it could harm wherever they’ve gotten into, could harm that ecosystem so that’s why it’s a problem,” said B&B Pet Stop Owner Bill Trufant.State wildlife officials say they are talking to other states to see how they’re handling the Apple Snail problem. They say it might be impossible to remove them, because thousands of snails hatch every week.

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Sun News, The (Myrtle Beach, SC)

2008-06-21

SLIME TIME: Troublesome snails slide onto Strand

South American species can harm humans, crops

Mike Cherney, mcherney@thesunnews.com

The gummy-looking, droplet-like clusters of pink eggs that clung to the bank of the pond appeared harmless enough, but S.C. nature officials are worried the snails that hatch from those eggs could pose a health risk and cause widespread ecological damage.

The island apple snails were found for the first time in the state in May in nearly a dozen ponds in the Laurel Woods subdivision and the Heron Point Golf Club off S.C. 707. Now officials are trying to eradicate them before they spread to the Waccamaw River, which would make containment efforts much harder.

“Ideally, they would be exterminated,” said David Knott, a marine biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. “If it’s feasible, and we can do it without causing environmental damage, that’s what we’d like to do.”

The snail could eat just about all the plants in a pond and displace and even feed on native snail populations, Knott said. The snail also carries a parasite that could cause fatal meningitis and can transfer to people if it is handled without gloves, although Knott said he was unaware of a case in the U.S.

The DNR has already dumped pesticide in the ponds in Heron Point and Laurel Woods, said Michael Hook, a field supervisor with the DNR’s aquatic nuisance species program. The eggs in Laurel Woods have been slathered with vegetable oil to prevent them from hatching, Hook said.

”When we first saw them, it was like, ‘What the heck is this?’” said Linda Bogart, who lives in Laurel Woods. “Then the kids started coming up with these egg pods and handling them and breaking them apart. I have never seen anything like that. I was scared for the kids.”

In Laurel Woods, the DNR found some aquarium gravel in one of the ponds, suggesting that someone dumped an aquarium with the snails – indigenous to South America – into the pond. From there, the snails, which can can grow to the size of the palm of a hand, could have spread through culverts to other ponds, Hook said. They or the eggs could also have been carried by predators, such as birds or raccoons.

The island apple snail is one of several apple snail species and has been introduced in Texas, Florida and Georgia, a DNR news release said. Of even greater concern to biologists is another apple snail species, the channeled apple snail, which can devour rice and taro crops and is the 73rd worst invasive species in the world, according to the Global Invasive Species Database. That snail has been found in Arizona, California and Hawaii, the DNR said.

The island apple snail cannot survive for long in water below 50 degrees, but it can burrow underground if the temperatures drop temporarily. South Carolina appears to be just warm enough for the snails, Knott said.

The apple snail was found nearly by accident. Tanya Meza, a resident in the Laurel Woods subdivision, said she called DNR to find out what fish she could get for a pond in the subdivision. When describing what already lived in the pond, she mentioned they had found some large snails.

”I said, ‘Snails,’ and he’s like, ‘Wait a minute,’” Meza said. “All of a sudden, everything [else] didn’t matter.”

Meza said her and her 9-year-old daughter, who first discovered the snail, were initially excited by the discovery, but now they are worried about the health and ecological effects. Her daughter touched the snail with her hands, she said.

DNR is spraying copper sulfate – a federally approved pesticide – in the infested ponds. The blue, granular substance will also kill algae but should not have any other detrimental effects, Hook said. Hook said he sprays about 10 feet from the edge of the pond, where most of the snails live. The DNR plans to treat the infested ponds once a month throughout the summer if new eggs are found.

The copper sulfate costs $2.50 a pound. Hook said the DNR initially estimated spending about $1,000 on the snails.

A challenge, he said, is getting a small boat to the larger ponds for treatment. After some searching during a rainy afternoon on Thursday, Hook found a dirt road surrounded by trees that led to a 2-acre pond near Heron Point. It was just wide enough for the boat to get through.

”I see some eggs!” Hook said as he walked to the edge of the pond. “That didn’t take long.” The copper sulfate was poured into a funnel-shaped, electric applicator attached to the side of the boat. Once in the water, a blue spray spread around the pond as the boat went from one end of the pond to another.

Nancy Cave, the north coast office director for the Coastal Conservation League, an environmental group, said invasive species such as the apple snail can threaten local ecosystems and supported DNR’s removal efforts.

“People need to be really careful and really think about what they’re doing when they take an action like dumping an aquarium, or planting a plant that they don’t know anything about,” Cave said.

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Snails found in Gretna, Terrytown and Belle Chasse, Louisiana worry scientists

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bill Capo / WWL Reporter

The New Orleans skyline is plainly visible from a Gretna neighborhood, where a canal winds past homes and a picturesque golf course. Neighbors enjoy bass fishing, but just below their feet lies an invader. The bright pink clusters of apple snail eggs dot the canal banks, glued to the pilings of a bridge, drainage pipes, even foliage that lines the bank.

“I saw your first report, and I also went to the web site and got more information on it, and then from there, I went out and started noticing them immediately,” said Gretna resident David Schmidt.

Schmidt seldom sees the adult apple snails, because they live below the surface of the water, but after the first Eyewitness News report about the new species being found in south Louisiana waterways, he became a man with a mission, scraping the eggs into the water to kill them.

“The first pass I made out here, I knocked probably 30 pods off the pilings. Any little stick in the water, they climb up and lay their eggs on,” he said.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries officials report the snails are turning up in Gretna, throughout Terrytown and Belle Chasse. They say apple snails were first spotted in Gretna in 2006. After the first Eyewitness News report, callers pinpointed two-apple snail populations to Wildlife & Fisheries experts, in Gretna and in the Houma, Thibodaux and Schriever areas.

According to Michael Massimi with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, the snails are tearing up the vegetation in south Louisiana, going after any fresh water plant they can get their mouths on. Scientists have gathered some live snails to study them, and are surprised by how much they eat.

“They eat anything we’ve put in here. They eat giant salvinia, which is the big plant problem we’re having in the northern part of the state. We’ve put hydrilla, coontail,” said Brac Salyers with Wildlife and Fisheries. “Pretty much everything we’ve put in here, they’ve eaten down to nothing.”

The snails even ate dead crawfish. The concern is what damage they could do in Louisiana, especially in the rice fields where crawfish are also harvested.

“In Indonesia in particular, there is massive crop damage, into the 80 percent range of the rice farms there,” Salyers explained. “So that is our biggest concern as far as controlling populations here, we do not want to let these things get into the Intracoastal Waterway, and make it to the west part of the state.”

But the other concern is whether the snails could attack vegetation in Louisiana’s fragile wetlands.

“Our wetlands are already threatened so severely by land loss and salt water intrusion. I hate to see what few remaining freshwater marshes we have convert to algae dominated ponds. It’s a big threat,” Massimi said.

Apple snails are originally from South America. So how did they get to Louisiana? The answer could be that they are very popular in freshwater aquariums, and the experts say chances are somebody just tossed theirs into a local waterway. They want to make sure that doesn’t keep happening.

“If you want to enjoy it in an aquarium, that’s fine, but when it gets too big, either destroy it, or give it to another person with a bigger aquarium. That’s fine. Just don’t release it into the wild,” Salyers said.

Wildlife and Fisheries agents ask anyone spotting the bright pink apple snail egg clusters to use a scraper to knock them into the water. That kills them. Adult snails can be bagged up and disposed of.

The agency is collecting reports of sightings to determine where the snails have spread. You can do so by calling 225-765-2641, or e-mailing Brac Salyers at bsalyers@wlf.louisiana.gov.

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Fist sized snails invade Terrebonne

08:15 AM CDT on Thursday, April 24, 2008

Houma Courier

SCHRIEVER — With brooms, scrapers and paddles in hand, snail hunters took to the bayous and swamps off La. 20 Tuesday morning to combat a looming invasion of alien intruders.

Dean Blanchard, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program habitat-enhancement coordinator, brushes apple-snail egg sacs off trees Tuesday morning in the swamp near Schriever.

Invasive apple snails — fist-sized and yellow-brown in color — have gained a foothold in the Donner Canal area and possibly the swamps surrounding the highway.

Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program scientists first identified them in January.

Tuesday’s mission, undertaken by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries officials and the estuary program’s scientists, aimed to assess the extent of the invasion.

“It’s important to catch them when they first appear,” said Kerry St. Pé, estuary program director. “Once they get loose in the basin, there’ll be no chance.”

Douglas Rhodes, a Houma resident who found the critters’ shells scattered around his property over the winter, first reported the snails to scientists. He said he knew he’d found something strange.

Though apple snails are new to the system and scientists can only speculate on the impact they’ll have, as with any invasive species they could overpopulate and steal resources from native plants and animals.

The snails also threaten human health and can pass a deadly parasite called rat-lung worm to humans and animals.

The snails can eat their way through a lot of plants, biologists said, damaging these habitats for local fish and wildlife. They’ve invaded environments in Florida and Texas and are also an invasive species to southeast Asia, where they’ve been a major source of rice-crop damage.

This is a concern to agriculture west of the Atchafalaya, where rice is grown in Louisiana.

Apple snails have been sighted before in Gretna and in the Barataria Basin, but this is the first time they’ve been found in Terrebonne.

Invasive species spread easily in Terrebonne and Lafourche because there are so many acres of remote, swampy and interconnected waterways that allow wildlife to thrive. The swamps and bayous off La. 20 are a veritable “invasive heaven” clogged with non-native plants like salvinia and hyacinth, St. Pé said.

And because most waterways are interconnected, species in Schriever might eventually reproduce and spread into the Terrebonne-Lafourche drainage canal, then into Bayou Black, the Intracoastal Waterway and then “the world,” St. Pé said. “You can get pretty much anywhere from the Intracoastal.”

Officials are asking residents of Terrebonne and Lafourche to report any apple snails or eggs they find.

The first sign that apple snails have established themselves in a waterway is their eggs, said Michael Massimi, invasive-species coordinator with the estuary program. The aquatic snails crawl out of the water during warm months and lay sacs of brightly colored eggs a few feet above the waterline.

The snail eggs are the color of a bright pink wad of bubble gum and “look like nothing else out there,” said Massimi.

At the infestation site in Schriever, eggs were visible on every low-hanging branch, stump, cypress root and grass blade strong enough to support their weight.

The snail hunters went to work, scraping and destroying as many of the eggs as possible. The snails can lay between 200-600 tiny eggs in one bunch.

There is no pesticide to effectively eliminate the snails. One of the best ways to control snail populations is to simply scrape the eggs and allow them to fall into the water and sink. Hand-picking snails is also effective, though as freshwater aquatic snails they’re usually hidden under the water’s surface.

“Though we might come out here in a month, and they’ll be back,” said Dean Blanchard, habitat-enhancement coordinator with the estuary program. “The source is still out there.”

Apple snails are a South American species popular in the aquarium trade because of their large size and lovely shells. Their presence in Terrebonne and other areas of Louisiana is probably the fault of a disenchanted aquarium owner who released the snails into a local waterway, officials said.

Exotic plants and animals should never be released into the wild.

“In most cases, (aquarium traders) don’t inform the public of the potential problem of releasing these non-native species in the wild,” said Wildlife and Fisheries aquatic-nuisance-species coordinator Brac Salyers. “Properly disposing of non-native aquarium life forms would help prevent the spread of snails, fish and plants into Louisiana waterways.”

Action is needed now, officials said, to ward off potential consequences of the spread.

“Because of how fast this species could take hold, and the fact that we don’t know the size of the problem we have right now, we’d rather act quickly than wait,” Salyers said. “This effort is half removal and half finding out the size of this population. If we find a lot more here than we think, we’ll have to start immediately planning a much bigger removal.”

Officials warn that the snails should not be eaten because of potential health risks.

There is no risk of illness from touching egg masses or the shell, but gloves or other equipment should be used when scraping the eggs.

Residents in tune with the local flora and fauna can be a big help in combating invasive plants and animals, said St. Pé, alerting scientists to any strange intruders entering the environment.

If you see apple snails or their eggs, you should report them to Salyers at 225-765-2641 or bsalyers@wlf.louisiana.gov.

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COOPERATIVE ENDEAVOR ASSESSES APPLE SNAIL POPULATION ON PRIVATE LAND NORTH OF HOUMA

Release Date: 04/22/2008

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) teamed up April 22 to remove apple snails and assess the level of infestation on a landowner’s property a few miles west of Shriever.

Apple snails are an invasive aquatic species from South America. They were first discovered in Louisiana in 2006 near Gretna and have since been found in several water bodies within the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary.

Apple snails cause damage to the marshes and swamps by out-competing native species for resources because of their large size, and the ability to quickly populate. They consume large quantities of plant material, which damages native fish and other aquatic organisms habitats. They are also an invasive species to Southeast Asia, and have become a major source of crop damage to rice farmers there.

Shriever resident and fisherman Douglas Rhodes first reported seeing the apple snail last winter. The snails’ presence was confirmed by Michael Massimi, the BTNEP’s Invasive Species Coordinator in late January of this year. “The apple snail could pose a real threat to the ecological balance of the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary System,” said Massimi. “As the potential impacts are largely unknown, it is important to act quickly.”

LDWF Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator Brac Salyers said, “Because of how fast this species could take hold, and the fact that we don’t know the size of the problem we have right now, we’d rather act quickly than wait. This effort is half removal and half finding out the size of this population. If we find a lot more here than we think, we’ll have to start immediately planning a much bigger removal.”

Apple snails were most likely introduced into Louisiana through aquarium owner releases. They have also been found in Florida and Texas. They are among the largest freshwater snails with golden-yellow to dark brown shells and range from 2 to 4 inches across, with the largest one reaching 6 inches in diameter.

Most people will only see their bright pink egg clusters of 200 to 600 eggs attached to trees or other structures just above the waterline. Egg masses can simply be scraped off the structures and allowed to fall into the water where they become inundated with water and become infertile.

“The public can help us a lot by reporting any infestations they see, or removing the eggs themselves and dropping them in the water,” said Salyers. “The biggest problem with the aquarium trade business is that in most cases they don’t inform the public of the potential problem of releasing these non-native species in the wild. Properly disposing of non-native aquarium life forms would help prevent the spread of snails, fish and plants into Louisiana waterways.”

If consumed raw, apple snails can possibly transmit many diseases, including a deadly parasite called rat lungworm, to humans and other mammals. However, there is no risk of illness from touching egg masses or the shell, but gloves or other protective equipment should be used when removing the egg masses.

For more information, contact LDWF Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator Brac Salyers at 225-765-2641 or bsalyers@wlf.louisiana.gov;

or Contact BTNEP Invasive Species Coordinator Michael Massimi at 985-449-4714.

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New Orleans has a new resident, and we shall see if it is a welcome addition.

Delta Journal: Island Apple Snail

Times-Picayune on Sunday, April 13, 2008

Our new citizen is the Island Apple Snail, Pomacea insularum, a large freshwater snail that is almost two inches in diameter. It has taken up residence in canals on the West Bank, and is well enough established to be actively breeding.

There are five or so species of apple snails in the United States, and only one Florida species is native. Florida hosts all the species, but they appear to be spreading and are expected to be found in most southern states. Being tropical species, they don’t tolerate cold temperatures well. All the non-native species found in our country are native to South America and are believed to have been accidentally released by aquarists.

At home in their preferred freshwater environs, they have steadily spread, and are believed to have been further distributed via floods and being swept down streams.

Oxygen exchange takes place with gills when underwater. If the water becomes low in oxygen, apple snails simply extend a siphon above the surface that is connected to a lung-like air sac. During drought, they may simply close the opening to their shell by withdrawing their foot and the operculum (a corneous structure that acts as a door), thus sealing their living quarters and hopefully enduring a period of dormancy.

Apple snails feed on vegetation, and the Island Apple Snail seems to prefer rooted plants that are abundant in their habitat. They may consume periphyton, the mats of algae that are common in wetlands. Unfortunately, they don’t eat water hyacinths and salvinia.

They are fed upon by most animals that routinely eat aquatic invertebrates such as alligators, turtles, predatory fish, raccoons, otters, and the like.

Apple snails reproduce throughout the warmer months. They are hermaphroditic, each snail having both sexes. Mating, however, requires two snails. They crawl out of the water at night and lay pink, calcareous masses of about 1,000 eggs above the waterline on firm objects in or near the water. The eggs whiten a bit as they near hatching, and the young leave the egg clusters and immediately enter the water.

There are two possible reasons for laying eggs out of the water: to avoid low oxygen, as periodically happens in many wetlands, and to reduce predation by aquatic critters.

Though we always fear the impacts of invasive species, there has been little evidence in Florida that they have hurt the native species, other mollusks, or wetland vegetation. If they become a problem, we can market them as a new ingredient for gumbo!

Bob Thomas

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Division of Aquaculture forms Apple Snail Task Force

FDACS, Florida Aquaculture, Issue No. 56, January 2007

Exotic apple snails (family Ampullaridae) have been established in Florida since the 1950s and are common to the southern portion of the peninsula with scattered populations in the northern portion. One particular species, the spiketopped apple snail, is a valuable aquacultural product. Up until recently there has been little agency, scientific, or public concern about exotic apple snails; however, recent media reports indicate dense, localized populations may have caused negative impacts of native and exotic aquatic plants; genetic evaluation of exotic apple snails in Florida casts doubt on the generally accepted taxonomic identifications currently used by local, state and federal agencies; international reports describe extensive damage by exotic apple snails to wetland rice production; and, a parasitic nematode with potential human health impacts utilizes freshwater molluscs, including apple snails, as an intermediate host.

To resolve these issues the Division formed a Task Force to provide to the Commissioner of Agriculture an analysis of the economic, human health, and ecological risks posed by exotic apple snails established in Florida and recommend prevention, management and control options to counter those risks. Knowledgeable experts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida International University, Florida Tropical Fish Farmers Association, Florida Department of Health, The Nature Conservancy, University of Florida, University of West Florida, and the Department’s divisions of Aquaculture and Plant Industry were convened by Sherman Wilhelm, Director, Division of Aquaculture.

Their initial meeting concerned taxonomy, field identification, and current laboratory and field research efforts. Based upon soon to be published work from the Florida International University, four species of exotic apple snails occur in the state: Pomacea insularum, P. canaliculata, P. haustrom, and P. diffusa. As outcomes of their first meeting: the Commission will update an apple snail identification card with images provided by Task Force members; members will cooperate to establish statewide sampling to assist Florida International University in its genetic analysis; and a project proposal to quantify ecological effects will be led by the University of West Florida.

http://www.floridaaquaculture.com/publications/Issue_56.pdf

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China orders seafood check after “snail” infection

China View (August 25, 2006)

BEIJING, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — China ordered Friday local health authorities across the country to strengthen supervision of businesses that sell river or seafood, after 87 people fell ill after eating raw or half-cooked snails contaminated with parasites at a Beijing restaurant.

The urgent notice, issued by the Ministry of Health, ordered the destruction of aquatic products contaminated with parasites or disease-causing microbes, in line with food safety requirements and the law on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.Businesses that violate the laws and regulations on food safety will be punished severely, the notice said. It also asked the restaurants concerned to improve processing conditions for aquatic products in order to ensure food safety and consumer’s safety.

The 87 “snail” patients were diagnosed with a type of angiostrongyliasis, a disease caused by parasites that affects the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to meningitis, according to the Beijing Health Bureau. To date, no deaths have been reported. The youngest patient was 13 years old and the oldest 51. All the patients ate raw or undercooked Amazonian snails two to four weeks ago in outlets of the Shuguo Yanyi Restaurant, according to the Beijing Health Bureau.

The bureau confirmed in its earlier report that the infection was caused by processing problems in the restaurant, which failed to eradicate nematodes in the snails. The restaurant was ordered to stop selling the snail dishes on Aug. 8. The Beijing health monitoring department posted an urgent notice on Monday, asking all restaurants in the city to stop providing customers with undercooked snails.

The municipal food safety office ordered on Tuesday that all agricultural markets, supermarkets, department stores and restaurants must stop buying, selling and processing the Amazonian snails. The health bureau is trying to trace the suppliers of the snails contaminated with eel worms.

Amazonian snails originate in South America and first came to China in the 1980s as a delicacy. The first patient to fall ill after eating the snails was reported in Guangzhou, capital city of south China’s Guangdong Province. The large, black snails are a hot-selling aquatic product in big Chinese cities like Beijing.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-08/25/content_5008109.htm

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Invasive South American Snails Breeding in South Georgia

Ga Wildlife Resources Division News Story

BLACKSHEAR, Ga. (9/13/2005)

It’s just the kind of tourism Georgia doesn’t need. Recent surveys conducted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) have documented breeding populations of a large, invasive species of snail native to South America. During a recent search, WRD biologists removed 79 of the channeled apple snails and 151 egg masses from a pond in Pierce County in a span of less than four hours.

A live snail found near the Alabaha River in Pierce County in early 2005 was identified as a channeled apple snail. The specimen was the first of its kind discovered in the state. Since then, live apple snails and eggs have been found in several ponds and streams in the Alabaha River system, a tributary of the Satilla River in Southeast Georgia.

“These snails have a voracious appetite for aquatic plants, which many native species depend on for foraging and shelter,” said WRD Wildlife Biologist Brett Albanese. Shells of channeled apple snails can reach a width of more than two inches and a height of three inches, and are yellowish to brown in color. Channeled apple snails have established populations in at least six Florida counties, and breeding populations of the species also exist in Texas, California and Hawaii.

Initial findings of the snails in Georgia raised speculation that the specimens might have been aquarium pets released into the wild, but the subsequent discovery of a large population in a popular fishing spot may indicate otherwise. “We now suspect that these snails may have hitched a ride into Georgia on a fishing boat that had been in Florida waters, where the apple snail has also been introduced,” said WRD Fisheries Technician Chad Sexton.

The discoveries were of particular interest to biologists because of the invasive nature of the species. An array of problems can arise when pet owners or fishermen introduce non-native species into Georgia’s waters. Non-native or nuisance species can be spread when anglers release live bait into the water or move between water bodies without cleaning boats and trailers.

The WRD Fisheries Management Section and the WRD Nongame Wildlife and Natural Heritage Section have been working to monitor the spread of apple snails in the Alabaha River system. They are experimenting with trapping and manually harvesting adult snails from ponds and streams and manually removing the egg masses from trees. “Although the track record for eradicating non-native species is not promising, biologists hope that they can halt or slow the spread of these snails in South Georgia,” Albanese said. “One reason for optimism is that we can target two life stages of the snails ¬ both the eggs and the adults ¬ for removal.”

Conservation agencies nationwide are working to stop the spread of non-native aquatic plants and animals, citing concerns about the potentially harmful impact to native species. “The wrong organism in the wrong place can eat or out-compete native species, which can have serious impacts on an entire aquatic community. Invaders can also spread non-native diseases,” Sexton said.

For more information about aquatic nuisance species, visit http://www.protectyourwaters.net or http://www.gofishgeorgia.com. Additional information on identifying apple snails is available at http://www.applesnail.net. Georgia residents who think they have found an apple snail should collect it, photograph it and provide detailed locality information to WRD Fisheries Management in Waycross at (912) 285-6094, or WRD Headquarters at (770) 918-6400. Citizens should also be on the lookout for the apple snail’s bright pink eggs, which are laid on trees and shrubs above the waterline.

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Beijing Restaurant Ordered to Pay Further Damages for Snail Illness

China View (July 4, 2004)

BEIJING, July 4 (Xinhua) — Shuguo Yanyi Restaurant in Beijing has lost a second civil suit involving undercooked snails that left dozens of diners ill last summer. The Chaoyang People’s Court, in a preliminary ruling, ordered Shuguo Yanyi Restaurant to pay Xie Yixue and five other diners a total of 123,000 yuan (15,375 U.S. dollars) for loss of earnings, medical costs and psychological damage.

The court heard the six all ate raw or half-cooked Amazonian snails at the restaurant and fell ill shortly after. They were diagnosed with angiostrongyliasis, a parasitic disease that harms the brain and spinal cord and can lead to meningitis.

The court concluded that the restaurant was responsible for their illness because the snails were undercooked and it had failed to exercise proper management over the dishes it offered. The restaurant therefore should shoulder full responsibility of compensating the plaintiffs for the physical harm and losses they suffered.

One hundred and sixty people in Beijing were poisoned by Amazonian snails from June to August last year, most of them had dined on the snails at the Shuguo Yanyi Restaurant. All had recovered by late September.

The city’s health bureau fined the Shuguo Yanyi Restaurant 410,000 yuan (50,000 U.S. dollars) in November for serving the undercooked snails. The restaurant, which admitted the snails had not been processed correctly, was willing to pay sick diners’ medical bills, but had turned down other claims.

Twenty victims sued the restaurant at courts in Xicheng and Chaoyang Districts. On March 15, Chaoyang Court ruled against the restaurant for the first time and ordered it to pay a woman surnamed Ma 15,000 yuan in damages.

_____________________________________________________

The South East Asian Snail Disaster

by Göran Frankel in Innovations Report (March 31, 2004)

A promising enterprise became an economical and ecological disaster. The golden apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) that was brought to Asia in 1980 to be cultured in ponds for human consumption instead spread through rice fields, irrigation channels and wetlands. It had a voracious appetite for rice seedlings and soon became a dreaded pest in the rice fields. In the Philippines alone, accumulative crop losses since the snail introduction is estimated to 1 billion US dollars. The snail is still spreading in South East Asia and it has recently invaded North Australia, Hawaii and southern USA. Recent research, however, shows that the invasive snail is a serious threat to natural environments as well.

This is because the snail consumes the aquatic plants in natural wetlands. These wetlands harbor great biodiversity, and many of the animals depend on aquatic plants for their survival at some life stage. These wetlands are also an important resource in the “unofficial economy” since the rural poor harvest plants, catch fish and collect drinking water in the wetlands.

– The ongoing invasion is nothing but an ecological disaster says Nils O L Carlsson at Lund University, who has quantified the effects of the invasive snail on natural wetlands in Laos and Thailand.

Entrepreneurs brought this South American snail to Taiwan in 1980. The intention was to grow these large snails (may grow to the size of a medium apple) in ponds to sell them at local food markets and export them to Europe. The project backfired. The Asian markets turned cold to the taste of the snail and all export to Europe was banned when it was found that the snail may be an intermediate host for a parasite that destroy the central nervous system in man.

At this time, however, the explosive invasion had already started. The snail is originally from Southern Brazil and Argentina and there is no feeding, growth or reproduction in the winter. At the higher mean temperatures in South East Asia growth and reproduction is greatly enhanced.

- The female snails lay around 300 eggs weekly and year around and flooded bushes in the wetlands often contain up to 100 000 eggs, says Nils Carlsson and he continues:

- When the snails attacked rice seedlings the invasion received a lot of attention. The farmers panicked and used both registered and non-registered pesticides. The invasion has therefore led to unsustainable use of chemicals and large negative non-target effects on many organisms, including man. Ironically, the snails effect on natural systems has been almost totally neglected, as the measurable economical damage from the snail was thought to be smaller in these systems.

- The wetlands are crucial for the diversity of both in-water, amphibious and land organisms, and rural people harvest plants, catch fish and collect drinking water in these systems. When the invasive snails consume all the plants, these productive systems turn into stagnant ponds with alga blooms.

Nils Carlsson is the first to quantify the effects of the snail in natural wetlands. He found that snail densities in these are as high as in infested rice fields and that the snails consume almost all plants. When the plants are consumed, the snails recycle large amounts of nutrients and these nutrients enhance phytoplankton growth instead. This is therefore a great threat to all organisms that depend on aquatic plants as food, refuge or spawning substrate. The values of the ecosystem services the wetlands provide rural people also drop dramatically after a snail invasion.

This snail invasion is thus not only a threat to rice production but also a serious ecological threat to all invaded wetlands.

- In both rice fields and wetlands you see a lot of people with cut and wounded feet says Nils. There are broken and sharp snail shells everywhere.

Besides higher mean temperatures, a popular explanation to the snails enormous success in South East Asia has been release from natural enemies, but Nils does not agree. Hunting and fishing pressures are very high in rural Asia. In Laos for instance, you can drive through rice fields and wetlands for an entire day without seeing a single bird. Nils has conducted experiments in Laos where he found that at least four native fish species, one native freshwater turtle and one native freshwater crab could consume the snail.

- More studies may confirm that the “immune system” of these environments have been fished and hunted away and that there are strong economical reasons to conserve biodiversity in this part of the world.

http://www.innovations-report.de/html/berichte/umwelt_naturschutz/bericht-27665.html

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Taro production hits record low

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

By Vicki Viotti, Staff Writer, The Honolulu Advertiser

The production of taro is at an all-time low, and the state is struggling to combat threats to the industry. Among the persistent problems, experts rank the apple snail — Pomacea canaliculata — as a major culprit in the current crop decline. The apple snail, Pomacea canaliculata, arrived in Hawai’i in 1989 to be sold as escargot. In the past few years it has become a problem in previously uninfested Hanalei, the heart of taro cultivation in Hawai’i.

Farmer Rodney Haraguchi, whose farm is the state’s largest and supplies more than half its taro, was not surprised to hear about a state report that crop yields for 2003 had dropped 18 percent from the previous year. The report, issued by the Hawai’i Agricultural Statistics Service, put last year’s taro production at 5 million pounds; the previous low, reached in 1997, was 5.5 million pounds. “I predicted that it was at least 20 percent, so that sounds right,” Haraguchi said.

The infestation of apple snails dates back almost 10 years and various tactics have been used to keep the pest in check — everything from releasing ducks into the fields to dine on the snails to powdering the crop with copper sulfate, a pesticide, for brief periods.

Both methods have had some success, said University of Hawai’i snail expert Robert Cowie, but it’s limited: Prolonged use of chemical pesticides is barred in wetland areas such as taro fields because they can leach back into the environment, and the duck brigades can do some damage to the crop themselves.

Most recently, Haraguchi had been working with Harry Ako, a UH molecular bioscience researcher, on a pilot project to harvest the snails for sale as escargot in restaurants. The idea is more to avert taro crop losses than to make a profit from the snails themselves, Ako added.

But a year ago, the renewal of the project’s federal grant was declined and Haraguchi has been in a holding pattern to keep the snails under control. The only way to do that is to devote half the time of one laborer to doing nothing but picking the snails, Ako said, who added that the infestations around the island have been curbed before but always recur.

“It looks like we shouldn’t celebrate and get happy when we control it, that these are a constant problem and need constant pressure to keep them in check,” he said.

Moreover, Cowie said snail harvesting to control the pests runs the risk of tempting non-farmers to start propagating snails, which can reproduce at an astronomical rate: Two snails can result in a population of millions after a year.

“My stand is, I think it’s incorrect to promote a pest,” he said. “Someone who doesn’t have snails in their area will think they can grow them, saying, ‘They’re never going to escape from our facility,’ but they will.”

Baby snails are a millimeter in diameter and can travel easily, Cowie said — on birds, through wind, and hidden in the taro leaf sheaths that are then replanted in new fields.

Some progress is essential, said Haraguchi, if the taro farmer is to stay in business.

“If we don’t keep this in check,” he said, “I don’t see how we can survive.”

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Mar/16/ln/ln07a.html

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China wary of exotic invaders

China View (November 21, 2002)

GUILIN, Nov. 21 (Xinhuanet) — China is considering stricter control over imports of exotic species of plants and animals, many of which have already damaged its environment.

“Last year less than three days after my family and I had transplanted seedlings of late rice in our 0.07-ha field, the seedlings were eaten up by Fushou snails scattered across the field,” complained a farmer surnamed Liu from Pingle County in Guilin City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The species of snail Liu mentioned, Amazonian snail which is dubbed “Fushou snail” in China, was introduced to the southern county in the 1980s as a food delicacy. However, the snails bred very rapidly to infiltrate all lakes, brooks and ponds in the whole county – a disaster for local farmers as they tended to eatevery seedling in the rice fields and seize bait from carp in fishponds.

Making matters worse, the Amazonian snail is strongly resistant to highly toxic pesticides. Farmers have to pick them up by hand and take them far from water so they shrivel to death or directly bury them. But such labor-intensive methods have proved ineffectual against the powerful potency of the river snails. Having run out of options, the farmers are appealing to scientists to find or breed a natural enemy of the river snail.

The Amazonian snail disaster has not only occurred in Pingle County but has also spread into Guilin and even Guangxi at large, according to the municipal Agriculture Bureau at Guilin.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2002-11/21/content_637006.htm

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About Snail Busters

The Snail Busters Blog was created to facilitate communication between aquatic resource managers who are fighting the spread of invasive, South American apple snails, specifically Pomacea maculata (formerly P. insularum) and P. canaliculata, in the U.S.

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