Antigua: Snail bounty hunters begin work

Antigua Observer:-  The first set of Snail Bounty Hunters to sign contracts with the Ministry of Agriculture have started work aimed at ridding the island of the invasive Giant African Snail.

Earlier this month agriculture officials launched the programme and urged interested persons to register as the Plant Protection Unit intensifies the fight against the destructive snails, which were first discovered on the island in 2008.

To date, 55 registrants have been approved for the programme and 20 have signed their contracts.

Head of the unit Dr. Janil Gore-Francis said the contracts were signed on Monday following a short briefing and those individuals are already working on the ground.

“In addition to the briefing they were issued with a set of bags and gloves which they would use to collect the snails,” Dr. Gore-Francis said.

The agriculture official added that the workers are assigned in areas where they reside, while those who are not living within the affected areas will be placed in other locations.

During the session on Monday with the bounty hunters, plant protection officers underscored the importance of carrying out their duties with the discipline that is required, in order for the programme to be effective.

The plant protection boss also fielded a number of questions and concerns from the workers who were reportedly eager to know more about safety measures, compensation and hunting areas. The bounty hunters were also urged not to focus only on reducing the number of adult breeders in the population, but the small snails and even the eggs are to be targeted as well.

Payment for the collection of the snails is at a rate of $1 per pound. The agriculture pest has destroyed local crops, forcing some farmers to find alternative ways of protecting their livelihood.

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