Environment: Tale of a Snail

Before flying home from a Hawaiian vacation with his family in 1966, a five-year-old Miami boy packed some unusual souvenirs. Hawaii's pest-control agents waved the lad through Honolulu International Airport—never suspecting that he was lugging three brown-shelled snails. Soon after reaching home, his mother ordered him to toss the creatures into his backyard. What he tossed was an ecological bombshell. Innocently, the boy had introduced into the mainland U.S. a ferociously fertile predator: Achatina fulica, more commonly known as the giant African land snail.

By now, at least 20,000 of the fist-size mollusks infest a 50-acre residential section of North Miami; more...

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