GIANT AFRICAN LAND SNAIL

Along with chameleons that regularly appeared in our garden when we arrived here over thirty years ago were the most enormous snails the children had ever seen. I write in the past tense for these – along with the glow worms, fire flies and the long earthworms the Hadeda Ibises used to pull from the ground like spaghetti – have disappeared. We cannot say when we last saw them, or noticed their disappearance. It was probably a gradual process that we were unaware of us our children grew up and we were all so busy. The thing is, we haven’t seen any of these creatures in our garden for a very, very long time. How often do we truly appreciate things only once they have left? We take so much of nature for granted.

I recall finding bleached empty shells such as this one in our garden:

It is so long since we used to find large empty snail shells or seen the very large snails that I had practically forgotten about them. That is until I walked along the close-cropped grass of the old golf course recently: apart from trees, aloes and a few bushes, this area looks fairly bleak in terms of things of interest. That is until I spotted a blob out of the corner of my eye and stopped to take a closer look at this:

The Giant African Land Snail one of the largest terrestrial gastropods. They have light to dark brown shells with vertical stripes of a darker shade of brown on them. This colour depends on the prevailing environmental conditions.

The snail has two short tentacles and two long ones that have the eyes.

These snails have a muscular foot that releases a silvery mucous-like substance that helps to reduce friction and protects the tissues of this ‘foot’.

It is useful to know that the Giant African Snail is herbivorous, eating a range of plant material. This leads to them being regarded as a pest in some quarters. I would enjoy seeing one in my garden again.

29 thoughts on “GIANT AFRICAN LAND SNAIL

  1. I’m wondering how much the drought has had to do with the decline, Anne? The earthworms might have had to go much deeper to survive, and of course snails don’t like prolonged dry periods (though they can survive for quite a while. Some glow worms eat snails, so I wonder if there’s a link there too? It is so interesting how interrelated things are….

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    • I suspect drought is the main problem here. I will be able to report on any positive changes once the area I live in also gets blessed with a lot of rain – as much of the rest of South Africa has been during the summer.

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  2. Very big, very beautiful. Would prefer not to have them in my gardens. 😉 But they would be welcome to munch in the woods around our house. I wonder why they have disappeared. Any notions?

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  3. That is one large snail. I am not sure I would want them in my garden if they reproduce like our small snails. There can be 100’s of them at a time. I think the droughts here have taken the toll on our snails. We still have plenty but it seems like they aren’t as prolific as they used to be.

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    • I have not seen these large snails in great numbers, but I agree the drought must have an effect on the snail population. We get a lot of small ones during wet weather too.

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    • I was both surprised and pleased to see this one, especially as the environment it was in looked fairly bleak: patches of very short grass and not much in the way of variety as far as other plant material goes.

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  4. That is a big snail! The shell looks like something you’d find in the sea. As you say, things disappear gradually and you don’t realise until it’s pointed out or they suddenly re-appear as in this case.

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    • It is funny you mention a seashell, for that is what we wondered when we first came across these shells in our garden. It wasn’t until we happened upon a live snail that we realised where they came from.

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  5. Declining numbers of any species (and there are far too many) is a very disturbing thing indeed. I was just reading about a conservation movement here call Homegrown National Park with the goal of getting every homeowner to creative native plantings to help support biodiversity. I’ve become rather passionate about it!

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    • What a fascinating concept this Homegrown National Park is! Having inherited a barren garden filled with exotic succulents, we set about planting indigenous trees and now have a lovely ‘forest’, which endures the drought conditions we are experiencing. I plant indigenous shrubs and flowers interspersed with the common garden flowers grown all over the world – it is the indigenous ones that ‘hang in there’ during this dry period.

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