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Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

25 September 2016 | Giant African Snail | Achatina fulica |

photo Keeping snail as a pet is not that uncommon. Leaving it to roam around openly is probably less common. This was the way that I hosted a Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) in my pot. It was free to glide back to the wild side of life if it chose to do so.

Giant African Snail as its name implied originated from Africa but has naturalised in Singapore long time ago. Due to its size and common status, it is a highly visible snail found in urban areas. It is by far the largest land snail available in the wild here. Its reputation is not good, being labelled as one of the worst snail pests known and happened to be a carrier of parasitic diseases. In some countries, it is illegal to keep such snails as pet in view of its damage to crops if accidentally released.

This particular snail was of mid-size when picked up. It was found gliding on the concrete path around my apartment block area. I had placed in one of the pots at my balcony. The vegetation in that pot was relatively dense, providing shade and hiding place for the snail. After I left it there, I had no idea whether it would stay or decide to leave. I tried hosting a larger fellow a few months back but it simply disappeared overnight, probably glide down the apartment block and back into the grassy area where it was first found. So far, this second candidate seemed to be quite happy with its new home. It had been staying put for a month now.

During the day, it burrowed and hide itself under the fallen dried leaves. Its movement in search for food started after dark. The area of its movement was limited to the pot where it first landed and the neighbouring pot. In the first night, it consumed the few Artillery Plants (Pilea microphylla) and a young King of Bitters plant (Andrographis paniculata) in the pot. There were onion plants growing in there as well but the snail was not interested in it. Sensing that it needed more food, I started feeding it with lettuce and it appeared to like it. These days, it preferred to sleep in the bigger pot where I grew the Centro vine (Centrosema molle).

Another similar-looking but less known snail (Limicolaria flammea) from West Africa had landed in Singapore some years back according to an article published in 2011. The Giant African Snail originated from East Africa.

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