Caught trying to escape at snail's pace

​11 March 2013

Staff at a Brisbane container yard were surprised this week when they found a snail the size of a cricket ball moving across the cement.

The staff member at the container yard took responsible action by containing the snail and calling local biosecurity officers at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

DAFF entomologists identified the snail as a Giant African Snail, which is an exotic pest with a ferocious appetite capable of destroying vegetable crops, fruit trees and Australia’s native eucalypt forests.

Biosecurity officers found no further evidence of additional snails, eggs or snail trails when they inspected the container yard, but will continue precautionary surveillance over the coming week.

Acting DAFF Regional Manager, Paul Nixon, said that industry reporting and the destruction of the pest was a part of Australia’s biosecurity system at work.

“Post-border detections are an important part of Australia’s biosecurity system which works offshore, at the border and onshore as seen in this case,” Mr Nixon said.

“Our biosecurity system relies on everyone taking responsibility including industry, the community and governments and I commend the staff at the yard for reporting the snail and doing their part in helping the system to work.

“Giant African Snails are one of the world’s largest and most damaging land snails, Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements and responsive system has so far kept these pests out of Australia and we want to keep it that way.”

Giant African Snails are a significant biosecurity risk, being able to live through harsh conditions, grow up to 20cm long and weigh up to a kilogram. In areas where they have few natural enemies, such as Australia, Giant African snails can attack up to 500 different plants.

DAFF works closely with other governments, agencies, industry and the community to reduce the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering and establishing in Australia and harming the Australian natural environment, our food security and economy.

If you find a suspicious pest that you believe could be exotic, particularly when receiving goods from overseas, you should secure them where safe to do so and report it to DAFF on 1800 020 504.

Photos of the Giant African Snail are available on request.