Published: Sep 05, 2012 1:58 PM EDT

MIAMI (AP) - State officials say more than 78,000 giant African land snails have been collected since the invasive species was discovered in South Florida last year.
    
The snail has been found in only Miami-Dade County. Officials said Wednesday that they're hopeful that they can eradicate the snail's population.
    
The snail eats at least 500 types of plants and can cause structural damage. It also can carry a parasite that can lead to meningitis.
    
Giant African land snails are illegal to import into the U.S. without a permit. No permits have been issued.
    
The last reported outbreak in Florida was in 1966 when a Miami boy smuggled three snails as pets. His grandmother released them into her garden and they multiplied. It cost more than $1 million to eradicate over 18,000 snails.
    
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Florida's giant African land snail information page: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/pi/gals/

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