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Slow, steady aliens invade

A village in Kerala is being invaded by aliens. And farmers don't know how to tackle them, reports Ramesh Babu.
None | By Ramesh Babu, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON JUL 27, 2006 02:26 AM IST

Azyioor village in Kozhikode has being invaded by aliens. And poor farmers have no clue how to tackle the foreign invaders.

The African snail — one of the most dreaded crop-raiding species —has somehow found its way to this nondescript village. Considered a delicacy in Africa, the snails are burning a hole in the farmers' pockets. Voracious eaters, they have polished off crops and even found their way up coconut trees. They are everywhere — even on cement plastering and compound walls.

The panchayat is trying its best to stop the fast-breeders — they lay 200 eggs at a time — from infesting the village green cover. 'Killer-squads' have been formed to stem the menace. And to encourage the hunters, the panchayat has decided to attach a price tag on the dead snails. Scientifically known as Achatina Fulcia, these snails grow up to 20 cm. Nocturnal invaders, they hide behind leaves and branches during daytime and attack after  sunset. Besides being a serious threat to agriculture, these predatory creatures terminate many eco-friendly snails and other species.

Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India, who visited the village, prescribed an antidote, salt. "Initially salt and kerosene killed them fast. But now most of them have become immune to them also," rues Sudhakaran, a farmer. Neighbouring villages have already sounded the alarm.

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