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Abstract

The giant African snail (GAS), Achatina fulica, is native to East Africa, and is now very widely distributed and established across the Indo-Pacific region. In 1984, this pest was first reported in the Caribbean sub-region in Guadeloupe and has spread since to several other countries. The only other report for the wider Caribbean Basin is for Florida, United States of America, where the pest was introduced in the late-1960s. GAS has been described as the most damaging land snail world-wide, reportedly attacking over 500 plant species inclusive of tree crops, ornamentals, vegetables and root crops; it has also been reported to vector several plant pathogens. Achatina fulica is therefore considered a major agricultural and horticultural pest species. Additionally, GAS is of public health concern being an intermediate host and vector of the parasitic rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the agent of the human disease, eosinophilic meningitis (or cerebral angiostrongyliasis). However, in most of the affected countries in the Caribbean, the snail has not proved to be a major pest, mainly affecting household gardens and uncultivated or semi-wild areas; the few reports of agricultural losses involve mainly vegetables. Management of this pest in several of the affected countries consists mainly of the use of chemical baits and physical collection of snails combined with limited public awareness programmes. While its spread to date has been slow, the establishment of the giant African snail in the Caribbean is a cause for concern for the agricultural sector and, lesser so, as a potential public health problem. However, it should be noted that the spread of GAS has not been anywhere near the rapid spread of other recently introduced invasive alien species in the Caribbean sub-region, e.g. hibiscus mealybug or red palm mite and neither has the impact been as devastating.

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