The greater Bermuda land snail (Poecilozonites bermudensis) was considered extinct until a small number were rediscovered in 2014. Invertebrate experts from Chester Zoo have, over the past three years, built a successful breeding programme at the zoo. Now, zookeeper Heather Prince, joined by snail specialist Dr Kristiina Ovaska and the Bermudian government’s Dr Mark Outerbridge, are taking 4,000 snails home. To track the snail dispersal a select number were fitted with individual fluorescent tags.
Dr Gerardo Garcia, Chester zoo’s Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, said: “We’re a team of delighted conservationists and scientists today. This is what we strive to do – prevent extinction.”
In the wild the snails, which measure around 2cm, can only be found on the remote, oceanic islands of Bermuda where they were driven almost to extinction by predation from introduced species of carnivorous snails and flatworms. Fewer than 200 were estimated to remain.
The 4,000 snails are being released on Nonsuch Island in Bermuda – an island nature reserve which has been chosen as an ideal location for the reintroduction following extensive field research. The island can only be accessed under strict quarantine protocols to prevent the unwanted introduction of alien species.
Several further releases of the greater Bermuda snail and a second species of land snail being bred at the zoo, the lesser Bermuda snail, are expected to take place in the coming months.
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