TOURISTS in Tenerife have been warned to be wary as a dangerous species that can cause meningitis is invading the holiday hotspot.
Parts of the island are being overrun by Giant African land snails, which scientists say pose a “significant threat” to humans.
Officials have now issued a stark warning to holidaymakers to steer clear of the “very dangerous” invertebrates swarming Tenerife.
They are known as the “world’s most damaging” snail species due to their penchant for destruction and being riddled with parasites.
It is the first time Giant African land snails have been spotted in the Canary Islands or Tenerife – where a whopping 230,000 Brits flocked to in March this year alone.
The Network for the Detection and Intervention of Invasive Alien Species in the Canary Islands (REDEXOS) said they are constantly receiving more reports of sightings as the species spread.
Boffins stressed that people should not touch the huge snails, which can reach up to 20cm in length, as it could land them with a deadly infection.
The creatures, scientifically known as Lissachatina fulica, are typically light brown and sport dark bands across their shell.
Experts warn close contact with the snails “represents a significant threat to human health, agriculture and the ecosystem in general.”
The invasive molluscs harbour a grim parasite known as rat lungworm, which can trigger meningitis in humans.
They also pose a threat to crops, flowers and infrastructure, due to their appetite for around 500 different plant species as well as paint and stucco.
REDEXOS suspect the Giant African land snails may have been smuggled into Tenerife to be sold to mollusc and reptile collectors.
The creatures are considered invasive due to their ability to reproduce rapidly, competing with native snail species.
Giant African land snails can lay up to 2,500 eggs per year.
REDEXOS have now launched a social media campaign to alert tourists and locals to the danger.
They have shared a series of images of the snails to show off their characteristics to help people recognise their distinctive shells.
A spokesperson for the organisation urged people to call 645 601 457 if they spot any of the snails – but warned they should not approach.
They added: “Citizen collaboration is essential to control the spread of this species and minimise its detrimental effects.”
Giant African land snails tend to thrive in hot and humid climates, although they are capable of living in temperate climates too.
They often live along the edges of forests, banks of rivers and streams, shrublands, agricultural areas, plantations, gardens, wetlands, and in various urban sites.
Thousands of Americans were placed under quarantine after a Giant African land snail was spotted in the US in July last year.
A community gardener found one roaming around New Port Richey, located about 38 miles to the northwest of Tampa, Florida.
Police believed a woman smuggled the snails on a flight from Africa to Miami by hiding them under her skirt.
Two were then spotted crawling down a busy street in the centre of London after being dumped in a lettuce-filled cardboard box.
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