A ritual link to snail invaders

Vazquez et al. (2017) recently published interesting research related to invasions. Their abstract reads as follows “The giant African snail, Lissachatina fulica, is considered one of the most invasive species worldwide, acting as a crop pest and diseases vector. It was first detected in Cuba in 2014 and is dispersing throughout Havana. We mapped 34 sites in the vicinity of Havana to assess its spread and analysed ecological (forestation and humidity) and anthropogenic (pollution and religious sites) factors in relation to the presence/absence of the snails using multivariate correspondence analysis. There were 14 sites at which the snail was present and where religious rituals of the Yoruba creed, an African rooted religion, were observed. No other variables showed significant relationships. This indicates that the rituals may be a major factor in the dispersal of the snail in Havana and more widely in Cuba. In light of this an outreach program with key Yoruba leaders may help in slowing the dispersal of the snail within Cuba, once the threats posed by this species are known”.

Reading through their paper I noticed that there may be also a ritual origin of the introduction of this snail in Florida, while there are indications that something similar maybe at stake in Brazil. Perhaps time for an ethnobiological approach complementary to the usual eradication schemes? Eradication without taking the driving force away behind the spread of this snail may simply not be sufficient.

Reference:
Vazquez, A.,  Sanchez, J., Martinez, E. & Alba, A., 2017. Facilitated invasion of an overseas invader: human mediated settlement and expansion of the giant African snail, Lissachatina fulica, in Cuba. – Biological Invasions, 19 (1):1-4.

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