Solomons authorities investigating report of pest snail
Solomon Islands public urged to be on alert for African Giant Snail, which is rife in Guadalcanal province and is causing severe food shortages in some villages.
Solomon Islands biosecurity officials are investigating reports that an invasive snail species rife in Guadalcanal province has reached the neighbouring province of Malaita.
The Giant African Snail eats more than 500 plants species and has cost other countries millions of dollars to eradicate.
The director of biosecurity, Francis Tsatsia, says the mollusc is thought to have entered Guadalcanal province during the ethnic tensions more than a decade ago when surveillance systems were down.
He told Annell Husband that villages where no bait is laid are stripped of food.
FRANCES TSATSIA: The idea of eradication was possible, say, around 2006, 2007, around that time. We are not giving up yet, but our strategy now is to do containment. We want to make sure it's on Guadalcanal and try as much as possible to contain further spread on Guadalcanal. Our priority is to ensure that it doesn't go out to the provinces and we've been trying to reduce or mitigate the risks that we see can spread snails to the provinces. It's very difficult because our main mode of transport here is shipping and the ship goes any time during the day and night and everything is transported to the province, including plants. And with our logging companies, too, they're all based in Honiara. They are shipping out their equipment every now and again. So it's quite a difficult task for us.
ANNELL HUSBAND: Have you got officers carrying out inspections on the ships that you can? Otherwise is it just up to public vigilance?
FT: We don't have a team doing inspection on every boat going out in the provinces, but we do have staff, agriculture staff, based out in the provinces, and I think most of our reporting is done by the public. I think the best thing we can do or improve on is awareness, which is probably very effective and costs less than full-blown eradication.
AH: And I was thinking, with the size of the snail, would it not be a good thing to eat?
FT: Well, the idea came out a few times, too, and I think the only reservation we have is that the snail can also carry a parasite that causes brain damage. Because we don't know the extent of the snail and more information on this we do not encourage people to eat snail. But if there are proper ways of making sure the snails are safe for people, I think that would be one alternative to get the population down and make good use of the snail.
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