Snail mail from Bermuda
Thursday 4 March 2004
We are joining the race against time to prevent Bermuda's last snails from becoming extinct
A colony of 56 highly endangered Bermudian land snails has been flown here to London Zoo as part of last ditch conservation efforts to save the species from extinction.
The snail's population has fallen to critically low levels in the wild, with only a single small colony surviving.
The snails, the sole survivor of a once diverse range of endemic Bermudian snail species, are being driven to extinction by the introduced predatory snail, Euglandina rosea, and Argentine ants.
The Bermuda Natural History Museum, who had been monitoring the snails, contacted London Zoo requesting urgent assistance in establishing a 'safety net' population, which could be bred for future reintroduced into their island habitat.
"We were more than happy to get involved in such a critical project," said Paul Pearce-Kelly, Curator of Invertebrates at London Zoo. "We've had a lot of success and experience breeding a Polynesian snail called Partula and so we can use that knowledge to help the Bermudian species and hopefully help re-establish them in the wild."
Bermudian land snails It is still early days but the signs are encouraging, with the newly arrived snails appearing to be settling into their new surroundings of the Invertebrate Conservation Unit at London Zoo and they have even laid eggs.
"As a UK overseas territory, Bermuda's wildlife is of direct British responsibility and this remarkable little snail highlights the richness of endemic species on these territories," continued Paul Pearce-Kelly.
Very little is known about the Bermudian snails and London Zoo will be working with the Bermuda Natural History Museum to produce detailed information on the snails' life history, breeding and feeding habits. This is part of a wider collaborative effort to develop a species conservation action plan for the remaining wild population.
The Zoo's veterinary pathology department are even identifying the snail's unique digestive micro-organism profiles (via snail faecal samples) to help ensure that the snails retain their essential food digesting protozoa and remain in a healthy condition for future reintroduction.