Glasgow Zoo Park
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Claretta, African Land Snail
Brazilian Land Snail
Photos by Andy Smyth, Photographer. ©

From its original home in East Africa, this popular and easily kept pet, has been spread sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately, to many areas of the tropics and sub-tropical, sometimes developing into a considerable pest. In East Africa, giant snails of a number of species are eaten, and in East Africa they are fed to domestic animals, particularly ducks.

The average adult specimen of this species has a shell length of about 10 cms, streaked and mottled with purple, white and fawn. The largest known specimen was 30 cms long when fully extended and had a shell 20 cms in length. The species continues to grow and enlarge its shell even after reaching sexual maturity.

These snails east most tropical plants and fruits. If offered cabbage, they prefer the darker outer leaves. They don't seem to like grass very much, if at all.

As well as plenty of food, calcium must be provided. Either by adding clear, crushed eggshells, chalk, or chunks of cuttlefish to the compost. Snails deficient in calcium develop a crumbly, rough shell and will probably not breed.

A suitable container is any sort of glass or plastic container, such as a plant propagator, with a securely fitting lid. It doesn't have to be particularly large as two snails in a container 20 x 13 x 16 cms in height, seem quite happy and breed readily. Ventilation can be provided by two small holes approximately 6 mms in diameter.

The substrate should be some form of moistened potting compost. If you introduce a few earthworms when you are setting up, they will keep the compost fresh longer. A few woodlice will clean the surface of scraps and seem to become self-perpetuating easily, without becoming over-crowded.

If you are interested in British snails, there are several common species. The brightly and individually coloured Banded snail Ceprea nemoralis is perhaps the most attractive. The common brown garden snail, and the closely related Roman snail are also interesting in that they are extremely long-lived - up to 16 years being not exceptional. If they are proving to be a pest in the garden, don't kill them! Just lay out lettuce leaves in the late afternoon and collect the snails, then remove them far away (not just over the fence into a neighbour's garden!) If you want some additional interest, you could try a blob of nail laquer or Tippex on the shell so you can identify the snail. If you put them 50 or 100 metres away, they will be back within two days!

All snails are hermaphrodites. In captivity, watching for signs of mating, as the specially created calcium love-dart, or penis has been seen by few people. The actual act reminds one of a couple of Galleons pulling up alongside each other, and stretching out a grappling hook!.

After mating, between 30 and 150 eggs will be laid and loosely covered with compost or hidden under a piece of bark. For Giant snails, they are about 5 mm long and hatch after 10 days if incubated at 25 degrees celcius. After eating their own shell, the baby snails move straight onto adult food, maturing in six to nine months, depending on temperature and food.

The zoopark has maintained Giant African Land Snails for many years, keeping then at the moment in the Education Department where they are used for close contact "meet the animal" encounters. They bred on numerous occasions, and especially at the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival, when their pearl-like eggs were much admired by some of the 800,000 visitors to the Hugh Fraser Tropicarium - an enormous Orchid and Butterfly House.

The Zoopark also maintains an Urban Wildlife Garden which as any undergrowth or weeding material recycled, through its own compost heaps within the Garden is full of general species of snails and slugs, all of which can be observed without difficulty feeding, either by searching the dry-stone walls, or under the logs, or on the natural food plants.

The common pond snail (Limnaea stagnalis)

How long does it take for pond snail eggs to hatch?

'The eggs are laid at intervals during the summer; they are deposited about thirty at a time, embedded in a curved mass of jelly, which is nearly an inch long; this is usually deposited on some water-weed to which it adheres. The young snails hatch in about a month. They do not at once need to rise to the surface for a supply of air, for they are hatched with a lung-cavity full of water and probably they are capable of respiration through the skin, using the air dissolved in the water.

The growth of the young snail is fairly rapid at first; in three months the shell may be nearly an inch long,but the full size is not attained for two years.'

Indonesian Snails are also on view to visitors at the Zoopark.