Working at a giant snail’s pace a boon for Ivorian farmers

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They may weigh a maximum of 500 grammes (one pound) and only grow to 10 centimetres (four inches), but the farming of giant snails is proving to be big business in the Ivory Coast.

Considered a delicacy for their tasty flesh, the giant snails are also used to make cosmetics manufactured from their slime and shells.

But nearly 90 percent of the West African country’s forests have disappeared over the last 60 years, something which, together with the widespread use of pesticides, has decimated wild snails’ natural habitat.

Most forest has been lost to agricultural production in the world’s top producer of cocoa – to the detriment of the creatures that naturally thrive in a hot, humid environment.

As wild snail numbers have steadily fallen, farms that specialise in breeding them have increasingly sprung up. There are some 1,500 in the humid south alone.

A popular appetiser in the Ivory Coast, the snails are bred on farms such as one of many in the town of Azaguie, some 40km (25 miles) north of the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Inside some 10 brick and cement containers topped with mesh lids is a layer of earth and another of leaves.

Between the two slither thousands of snails, juveniles and breeders – some much larger than those found in Europe.

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