Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snail at risk
THE EDITOR, Sir:
While last calendar year at this time one could speak about the commercial potential of harvesting the Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snail, which is found in the hills of northern Manchester, today one is forced to consider conservation measures for the species.
A four-mile walk on December 22, from Bethany to Mile Gully, revealed only one of these snails on a tree, near to the roadside. The same walk the previous day revealed one colony of about four or five snails.
In speaking to the residents, I discovered that in order to combat the Small Black Snail, which is a most destructive pest that damages their crops, be it sweet peppers, tomatoes or potatoes, slug bait is used.
Slug bait is an indiscriminate killer in terms of its impact on snails and slugs. A problem is that the range or territory of the Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snail is not known, and thus it is a challenge to protect them from slug bait.
The second, and perhaps the most important, aspect of the question is that the Jamaican White Helmet Snail is also considered a pest for farmers of tree crops, and hence they are also targeted for elimination. The combined effect of attacking the Small Black Snail and the deliberate targeting of the Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snails is the qualitative reduction of the numbers of the Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snail.
The Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snails, from a commercial standpoint, offer significant advantages over their European and North American rivals in terms of rearing. While those aforementioned groups of snails are terrestrial and packing densities are of a major concern, the Jamaican White Helmet Tree Snails are tree or post living and are social creatures.
I have seen colonies with numbers no fewer than 20 on one tree. Thus, in one square metre with an adequate number of posts, more snails could be reared in a square metre than could be achieved with their European or North American rivals. This is a significant advantage, considering the current state of demand on the major international markets.
It would be most unfortunate if we, as a country, should lose this species and down the road be forced to import commercially inferior species for commercial rearing.