I have always been fascinated by snails since I was little; I remember visiting my grandparents’ house in Southern Italy during summer holidays, when I enjoyed looking for snails on a rainy day. Once I built a terrarium and I used to bring so many snails home that at some point my family made me stop (which I understand, given that it was becoming an invasion!).
I have always loved animals in general, but I remember loving snails from such a young age that I even used to search for them in the schoolyard with some of my primary school classmates.
Growing up in Milan, I didn’t have the chance to come across snails very often (as they usually prefer to live in nature) but two years ago I was living in Liguria (North-West Italy, by the sea) and on my terrace there were multiple plants in old vases that hosted more than fifty snails!
I was there from the beginning of the pandemic until about a year ago, so I got to spend the lockdown with the snails (it was a rainy spring, contrary to the last one!) and it felt like going back to being a kid again. I learned to take care of snails while keeping them in their natural environment; I was feeding them with salad, apples, carrots and I was looking forward to my lunch break from smart-working because I enjoyed photographing the snails and observing them interact with one another.
There was a big snail in particular that I grew quite fond of; she (I know they are hermaphrodites but I’ve always thought about this one as a ‘she’) was very different from the others and liked to take long walks at night. She seemed to have developed an intelligence that led her to survive a very hot summer while staying closed in her shell for about three months, going through the hibernation process and therefore not moving from her preferred spot under the shade of a plant.
The beginning of the pandemic was a very difficult time for everybody (and for some people more than others), so I was glad I had the snails to look after; it is great to take care of another living being, not just people but also animals, dogs, cats, plants…and snails, of course.
When I was moving out of that apartment I had initially thought to bring some snails with me, but I soon realized that I would have given them nightmares because my future was uncertain at that point and I wasn’t sure I had the adequate room for them to be comfortable (it turned out to be the best decision for them and I am sure they wouldn’t have wanted to be taken away from the place they were born). I still think about my old snails and I am glad to have had them in my life, though only for a year and a half.
In recent times, many people have started adopting exotic animals and this is how I found out about the giant African land snail being now considered a pet; I know it is forbidden to keep one in various nations around the globe, including the US, but in Italy it is good to keep them as long as one doesn’t release them into nature, as they are an invasive species. I am so looking forward to adopting a couple of giant snails, since I got in touch with people who put them up for adoption all over Italy.
It is not hard to take care of them, even though they deserve the proper care and respect like all living beings. The main things you need for giant African land snails are:
– a box (40x30x30 cm minimum);
– a heating pad for the wintertime, as they need the right humidity;
– a 10-cm layer of wet coconut fiber;
– daily feeding with fresh vegetables and protein supplementation (pet kibble, fish food, etc.)
– calcium always at their disposal, mainly through cuttlefish bone;
– all the love and attention you can give them!
I have read various snail care articles across the web but what was most useful to me in terms of tips on how to take care of snails was Naki’s YouTube channel, as she lives with twenty animals at home and she’s a master in taking care of them all! She also puts snails up for adoption from time to time, so feel free to get in touch with her if you are interested. Her channel is entirely in Italian but for English-speaking people I would recommend Welcome To The SlimeSide, who had a channel in German but has now created an international one – she even has Zachrysia Guanensis snails and they are so cute! They are Cuban snails). For European readers, she sells snails and related products on her SlimeSide website.
I hope to get a giant snail soon, I am looking forward to it and I will mainly consider getting an Archachatina Marginata or an Achatina Fulica (even though the latter tends to reproduce more, so it is important to keep in mind that they must not be released into nature).
I am aware of the fact that not everybody likes snails or wants them as a pet, but I think this applies to dogs and cats as well. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and can decide for themselves if they want to take care of an animal, given the responsibility this entails. However, I know many people who like them and enjoy having them around.
The photographs I took of my snails show them in their everyday life; eating salad, mating, sliding around in the rain and simply sleeping on the wall (too bad I couldn’t take a picture of the snails laying eggs, as they usually lay eggs underground). You can found other snail pictures on my Flickr profile and there is also SkyeWeasel, a Flickr member who posts many scenes with snails as main characters; I enjoy them so much!
The photo I posted at the beginning of this article is the one I like the most among all the photos I took, as it shows my big snail carrying a newborn on her shell. For me, it embodies the beauty and perfection of nature and its inhabitants, the importance of safeguarding Planet Earth and taking care of ourselves and other living beings.
All pictures are my own.
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