Catching Giant African Snails in ward 12 (Public Welfare ward) of the Muhamma grama panchayat in Alappuzha has two benefits. It can prevent the invasive species, which present a big threat to the local flora, from ravaging crops; while snail-catchers stand a chance to win the State government’s Thiruvonam Bumper lottery, the first prize being a whopping ₹12 crore.
A year-long campaign, titled ‘Snail-free village,’ is being conducted in the ward to tackle the snail menace and authorities there recently offered lottery tickets costing ₹300 each to 10 highest snail catchers to tempt the residents to join the initiative.
“The campaign was launched in June. Every alternate month, a five-day drive (first five days) is being carried out to make the ward free of Giant African Snails. The second phase was held between August 1 and 5. Apart from distributing salt to all families in the ward, we also offered lottery tickets. The 10 winners have been identified by counting the shells and they will be handed over the tickets on August 17,” said Latheesh B. Chandran, local ward member.
Mr. Chandran said the second phase of the campaign was a huge success with more than 50 families joining the initiative and destroying more than 10,000 snails. “People in the ward have been facing the menace for several years. The farmers, in particular, have suffered huge losses as the snails feed on a wide variety of crop plants. With the help of residents, we are determined to bring an end to the menace,” he said.
Snails caught were destroyed by putting them in saltwater. The next phase of the drive will be held from October 1 to 5.
Santhappan T.B., who earned a lottery ticket by capturing 1,200 snails, said the drive should be expanded to the entire local body. “Giant African Snails started to invade the region 10 years ago and it is now everywhere. It eats all vegetables. There is no way other than to capture and deposit them in saltwater to control its population,” he said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared Giant African Snail as one of the worst invasive species. The species, which plays host to parasitic nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is suspected to cause Eosinophilic Meningitis in humans.
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