Why Did Costa Rica Declare A Phytosanitary Emergency Due to the Presence Of the Giant African Snail?

The Government of Costa Rica declared a national phytosanitary emergency in order to prevent the spread of a focus of the plague called, popularly, the giant African snail (Achatina fulica) and known for its great destructive capacity.

It is the second organism listed in the list of the 100 most dangerous invasive species in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The alert is due to its easy adaptation to a diverse range of environments, explained the State Phytosanitary Service (SFE).

With the declaration of emergency, the country increases its efforts to contain the presence of the snail less than two months after its presence in the country was discovered. On April 27th, the authorities confirmed that it appeared in the community of Curubandé, in Liberia, Guanacaste. Said status will be maintained for a period of two years. However, the SFE stated that it is extendable as long as it is necessary to control the plague.

Regional emergency

At the same time, the country submitted a declaration of regional emergency to the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (Oirsa), which was welcomed by the entity. This, in order to prevent its spread to other countries as stated in national decree No. 43001-MAG.

Threat contained

The authorities added that the threats are contained. However, due to the risks and to have greater scope and capacity, it is necessary to declare a national and regional emergency, added SFE executive director Fernando Araya.

However, if extended to commercial crops, the losses would be millionaire since they not only imply the loss of the crop, but also damage to the land and the endemic ecosystem, which affects the new crops.

Why is it so dangerous?

This mollusk has been on the radar of various countries in the region due to the threat it represents. The main reasons are that it has a diet made from several agents (polyphagous), which allows it to adapt to regions with different climates. In total, it is estimated that their diet includes some 500 species of fungi, plants, lichens, decomposing organic matter and animal feces.

On the other hand, its high reproductive capacity presents another obstacle to its control. According to the scientific literature, during a mating cycle, a specimen can generate between 100 to 400 eggs. Its shell can measure between 15 and 20 centimeters.

The snail causes impacts on the ecosystem by altering the nutrient cycle associated with the large volumes of plant material that passes through its digestive tract, and impacts on biodiversity by displacing populations of native molluscs by competition and even causing their extinction.

All the territories

Currently, of the Oirsa countries, this mollusk is only found in the Dominican Republic and in our territory. In the case of the Caribbean island, it is contained in the eastern part of the country, more specifically in the Punta Cana area. The other countries that make up the Agency are: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. However, in recent months, various Latin American entities have warned about their presence in countries such as Argentina and Colombia, among others.

For its destruction, the use of insecticides or other chemicals is not recommended since the results are not the best. For this reason, a manual elimination must be carried out in which the destruction of its shell or incineration is favored.

It should be noted that these mollusks must be handled with gloves since it is a source of . On the other hand, the study recalls that its problem is magnified in sparsely populated areas, where commercial crops are usually located.

If you suspect their presence in your area, you should notify the phones 2549-3555 and 2549-3635. The emails [email protected] and [email protected] are also available.

The authorities urge public or private, autonomous or semi-autonomous institutions to provide all kinds of collaboration to the SFE to address this phytosanitary emergency.

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