The African giant land snail is now present in Peru
Local authorities warn about the potential risk of disease transmission if handled without adequate protection
It was detected in recent years in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela. The invading species of Achatina fulica has also been spotted in Peru. Commonly known as the African giant land snail, it is potentially dangerous not only for its capacity to host and transmit diseases but for the voracity with which it can infest and devour crops.
Similarities with indigenous giant snail species
The Megalobulimus maximus is locally known as congompe in the San Martin region of the Peruvian Amazonia. It can reach 20cm in length and nearly 10cm in height. Its usual habitat are rain forests and river banks.
The congompe is a typical ingredient in local cuisine and its slime is believed to have regenerative skin properties, which are highly appreciated. Locals tend to fetch them for self-consumption and elaborate handicrafts with its carapace to sell to tourists.
These local giant snails, can be found in most of the street markets in the region and are hardly subject to any preliminary health control. Both species could easily get mixed up and the accidental sale and consumption of the invasive species may pose a risk to people’s health.
Knowing how to differentiate both species
The Peruvian National Service of Agrarian Health (SENASA) has informed about the main characteristics of the invasive species, with the aim of raising awareness amongst locals on the potential health risks posed by the African giant snail.
At first glance, the most visible difference can be found in their carapace. The Megalobulimus maximus’ is rounder, whereas the invader Achatina fulica’s has a more pointed shape and a sort of a cavity in its base.
What to do when finding an African giant snail
The invasive species has been found in areas of waste accumulation and unhealthy, as well as in urban parks and gardens.
Local authorities recommend not to manipulate any specimen with bare hands. Using latex gloves will prevent snail slime to come into contact with the skin.
Once captured, they need to be submerged into salty water until dead. Afterwards, they should be buried and covered by a layer of lime.