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Snails belong to a group of invertebrate animals known as molluscs. Most molluscs carry a shell. Other members of this group include slugs, mussels, squid and cuttlefish. Snail meat has been consumed by humans throughout the world since the historic times. Snail meat is one of the most popular delicacies in Nigeria. The meat is high in protein (12 – 16%) and iron and low in fat.
The fat content which ranged between 0.96 and 3.0% is low when compared with 9.6, 21.4 and 23.0 % in chicken, egg and mutton respectively. This quality makes snail meat a choice for hypertensive patients and the obsessed [,]. Snail meat is also very rich in Iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and nitrogen. The high content of iron in snail meat according to [] makes it useful in correcting the problem of iron deficiency in man.
There are many species, the most common are: Achatina achatina, Achatina fulica, and Archachatina marginata. The most popular edible snails in West Africa are the giant snail, Achatina achatina, and the big black, Archachatina marginata.
They mostly live in jungles in tropical countries, but some may live in grassland. They primarily feed on fruits and leaves. They are easy to find and not difficult to rear. Their size ranges from 3 cm to 25 cm. They lay several batches of eggs each year. Generally, they are quite easy to care for, being able to put up with a range of conditions.
Essentially, a snail consists of two parts, the body and the shell. The body is divided into three parts – the head, the foot and the visceral mass. The head is not well demarcated and carries two pairs of retractable tentacles.
There are two main system of snail farming. These are: indoor and outdoor system.
Indoor system: This system involves raising snails indoors in pen located in a building. The snails are fed a mixture of fresh vegetables, concentrates and other food materials.
Outdoor system: In this system, snails are raised out – doors on pastures. The snails may or may not be fed. The farmer has little control over the performance of the snails. The snails move about feeding on natural food materials. A modification of the out-door system is one in which the snails are confined out-doors in enclosures and fed both synthetic and natural diets.
A number of factors should be considered when siting the location of the farm.
· Soil characteristics: fertility of the soil, moisture content of the soil etc.
· Wind speed and direction
· Temperature and humidity
Depending on the rearing system adopted (indoor or outdoor), the materials required for building snaileries are:
· Decay and termite resistant timber
· Mosquito nets or nylon mesh and polythene sheets.
Depending on the scale of production, the construction could take any form.
However, a (5m x 5m) outdoor pen is a suitable size for indoor rearing.
Prototype hutch box
Array of Hutch boxes
Snails are vegetarian and will accept many types of food. However, it is capable of utilizing a remarkable wide range of food items. The following food items are favored by the animal:
· Leaves: cocoyam, kola, water leave, pawpaw, cassava, okra, eggplant, centrosema, cabbage, lettuce etc.
· Fruits: pawpaw, mango, oil palm, tomato and cucumber
· Tubers: cocoyam, cassava, yam, sweet potato and plantain
Appreciable calcium is needed in the diet of the snails to help build a strong calcareous exoskeleton. If the soil is not high in calcium, supplementary calcium will be needed. This can be provided by sprinkling powdered oyster or snail shells or ground limestone unto leafy vegetables.
Snails also feed on synthetic diets containing a good amount of protein, calcium and phosphorus. An example of such diet is poultry marsh. Wet poultry droppings, rotten vegetables and dead animals are all consumed by snails.
1. Watch the snails to ensure they are eating well and give them the right type of food in adequate quantity.
2. Ensure the food and shelter plants are wet and moisten the ground regularly.
3. Avoid sudden changes in atmospheric humidity and temperature. On dry days during the snail growing season, water the ground daily. Always water in the evening at sunset. Ensure the soil is moist and not wet.
4. Examine any opening and mend to avoid pest attack
5. Check for predators: The major predators are rat, frogs, crows, domesticated birds such as ducks and turkey, lizard, millipedes etc.
6. Keep away poisonous chemicals like common salt
Generally, snails that are well fed and managed would be ready for harvesting within 12 to 24 months from the date of stocking. Average weight of a well matured snail of the giant type is 200gm. Growth rate is slow and a lot patience has to be exercised in snail farming.
There is a flourishing international trade in snails in Europe and North America. In France the annual requirement is about 5 million kg, over 60% of which is imported; the estimated annual consumption in Italy is 306 million snails.
In Nigeria, snail meat has traditionally been a major ingredient in the diet of people living in the high forest belt, where demand is seen to outstrip supply.
As more people become aware of the medicinal and other importance of snail meat, snail might go into extinction with time [] because the major source of snail supply to most Nigerian consumers is from the wild. In recent years, however, wild snail population have declined considerably, primarily because of the impact of such human activities as deforestation, pesticide use, slash- and – burn agriculture, spontaneous bushfires, and the collection of snails before they reach maturity.
It is therefore of utmost important to keep up snails farming (heliculture) as a means of conserving this important resource to keep up with the demand growing daily, and serve as a vital tool to resourcing the economy of the nation.
 Imevbore EA,Ademosun AA. The nutritive value of the African giant Land snail (Archachatina marginata). Journal of Animal Production Research 1998 (8) 2: 76-87.
 FAO. Farming snails by FAO better farming series. 3/33 Rome Italy. 1986.
 Odunaiya O. The utilization of snails in Nigeria. M.Sc. Thesis. University of Ibadan. 1995.
 Hamzat RA, Omole AJ, Babatunde BB, Adejumo MO, Loge OG. Comparative value of kola testa, corn bran and rice bran with maize for mature African giant land snail (Archachatina marginata). Nigeria Journal of Animal Production 2007;34(2):265-76.
 Cobbinah JR. Snail Framing in West Africa. The University of Chicago Press. C.T.A. Production (ACP EGG). London Convention. 1992.
 Culled: Snail farming in West Africa - a practical guide
 Curtsey: Snail farming in West Africa - a practical guide
 Adeleke MA, Adeleye RB, Osinowo OA. Effect of Parent Body Weight on the Growth Rate of Giant African Land Snails Under Unrestricted Feeding.In: Proc. of 7th Ann. Conf. of Anim. Sci. Asso. Of Nigeria (ASAN). September, 16 19, Uni. of Agric. Abeokuta (UNAAB), Nigeria. 2002. p. 369-72.
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