A giant land snail, Cochlitoma zebra (Achatinidae), which is indigenous to the Southern Cape, found near the Garden Route Dam. Photo: Sam Gerber
GEORGE NEWS - A giant land snail drew the attention of mountain bikers on Sunday when they spotted the interesting specimen in the vicinity of the Garden Route Dam.
"I spotted it first, but thought there's no way it can be a snail. Then my husband said 'check this big snail'. So we stopped," said Bernice Gerber. Her husband, Sam, took a photo of the snail and sent it to the George Herald.
A snail expert Dai Herbert, a zoologist from the Natal Museum, identified the snail as Cochlitoma zebra (Achatinidae), which is indigenous to the Southern Cape. Another zoologist, Andrew Turner, of CapeNature, confirmed that this species is harmless and should not be confused with a similar looking invader species from West Africa. The inva-der species are known to carry human pathogens including meningitis as well as parasitic worms, but they don't frequent this area, said Turner. "There are a lot of different giant land snails," he said.
Willem Matthee, a botany student and part-time lecturer at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, has seen this species around the George Campus. "According to Tony Rebelo (who quoted Herbert and Kilburn's Field Guide to Snails and Slugs of SA, 2004), it occurs from Agulhas eastward, and is the only species mentioned for the Western Cape," said Matthee.
It was Bernice's first sighting of a giant snail. "My husband used to see a lot of them in Durban when he was growing up, and my dad says that they used to see them in East London when he was a child," she said.