Saturday, November 12, 2011

Snails succumb to deep freeze

Reading the headline of this story, many people are probably wondering what snails are or in this case, were, doing in a refrigerated environment. Snails for many of us, are slow moving invertebrates that live out their lives in our garden soil. However, the Powelliphanta giant land snails are considered an endangered species after the area in which they live(d),  Stockton Plateau on South Island in New Zealand, set up coal mining several years ago. Given their rarity, scientists in their wisdom, decided to save  6,000 of their kind by transferring them to a temperature-controlled room set up by the Department of Conservation. This leads one to wonder if the scientists who most likely had their (the snails) welfare at heart, took into consideration as to whether they (the snails) wanted to be relegated to a room for the rest of their lives. But I digress.

So anyway, the snails, which eat primarily worms and slugs can grow as large as 3.5" accross, can or could live up to 20 years - when their living conditions are favorable. Somehow, things went very wrong and a technical glitch caused temperatures to drop below freezing. Unable to sustain the sudden blast of cold, 800 of their kind were accidentally frozen to death. Sounds like a plot for a bad sci-fi movie.

This leads one to wonder as to why there weren't any systems or alarms set in place that would go off and warn the snail care-givers that something was wrong. But I digress. Again.

Meanwhile, the staff at the West Coast conservancy where they lived or at least existed depending on one's views, are said to be very upset. I bet. Seems that the temperature probe in one of three containers failed causing the room temperature drop to a point where the snails froze to death. Just how many snails are/were housed in each container, one wonders...

In response, staff will conduct more monitoring checks and will be setting up an alert system for surviving snail species. I bet. At least 360 snail eggs hatched this year and they were confident the specie would survive. Some environmentalists were of the opinion that this type of accident shows what can happen when development displaces wildlife from its natural habitat.

"Keeping our wildlife in fridges is obviously not how New Zealanders would like to care for native animals found nowhere else in the world. It's a sad fact that this has been the best option for them because moving them back to the wild in other parts of the West Coast has not worked,"  Nicola Vallance of New Zealand's Forest and Bird organisation commented.

Very sad that industry or poaching is causing the extinction of many species. I'm not a big snail fancier but somehow living out their lives in a climate controlled container is less than ideal. Then again, if scientists hadn't intervened, yet another species would disappear.

Here's a photo of one of them:

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