Just look at this big boy. No, it's not a bunny rabbit; it's an African land snail. Yes, this guy is a snail – but definitely not the kind you might find on the sidewalk after a rainy day. These giant African land snails can get as big as a very small dog, hail from Africa (hence the name), and also apparently make really great pets. Now they're taking the Internet by storm – and how could they not? These snails are both adorable and extremely creepy at the same time. So meet the giant African land snail: a creature who is simultaneously mind boggling and ready to love you.
Giant African land snails hail from east Africa. The can grow up to five inches long and weigh just slightly more than a pound. Unlike other types of snails, they like to be "entertained," meaning they're always messing around with stuff like bark and flowers. They like wet places, and they thrive in clean environments. They hate to get dirty.
Because these snails are big – and relatively social – they make great pets. They can live up to 10 years, which adds to their reputation as a good companion. They really don't require an exorbitant amount of care, seeing as they eat leafy greens and really only need a clean living space.
But before you rush out to buy one, double check whether they're legal to have. In some countries – including the US – it's illegal to keep one as a pet. And even if they are legal, there are a few downsides. African land snails are prolific breeders who can produce thousands of eggs, which is why most people recommend only having one.
In parts of the US, the giant African land snail is wreaking havoc. In Florida, the snails are damaging areas in the southern part of the state – and not just the environment itself. The snail brought with it the rat lungworm parasite, which can seriously harm people. The snails were first introduced to the US in 1966 as an educational prop, but when they started devastating areas of Florida, government officials made an effort eradicate them. Also in response, the US government banned the snail. In the 2000s, the snails made a reemergence. Officials are unsure how they came back to the US – but suspect it was people bringing them in illegally.