Cuba's "painted snail" endangered

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-9-26 14:00:30

Cuba media Friday sounded an alarm on the endangered polymita, a brightly-colored land snail endemic to the country's eastern region.

Known for its beautiful multicolored shell which is prized for jewelry making, the polymita, or "painted snail," is threatened by rampant poaching and environmental deterioration, the state daily Granma said.

"The growing threat (to the mollusk) is due mainly to the loss or change of its natural habitat and over-exploitation from indiscriminate poaching linked to the illegal trade in the shells," the daily said, calling for "effective measures to stop the decline in their fragile populations."

Recent studies show their natural habitat has suffered from climate change-related factors, including a decrease in rainfall and rising temperatures.

Since last year, Cuba has been grappling with the worst drought in 115 years. But poaching on a massive scale is blamed for being the No. 1 reason why the "world's most beautiful land snail" is in "serious danger of extinction," Granma said.

The paper noted that the creatures are more than merely ornamental, benefiting their environment by keeping plants pest free and serving as food for an also endangered species of hawk.

Poachers reportedly do a brisk trade in polymita shells, selling their shiny shells to tourists, artisans, jewelry makers and collectors.

A quick online search brings up pages of photographs of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pendants made of lustrous shells in a wide variety of colors and color combinations.

As tourism to Cuba picks up and demand for handicrafts increases, authorities fear the illicit trade in polymita shells will also be more active.

Posted in: Americas, Odd News

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