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By Philiip Dowa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 24) - Snails said to be almost as big as conch shells are plaguing Karkar Island in Papua New Guinea, destroying almost all the plants.

A resident, Taua Apuai, told The National after visiting his relatives that the island is infested with the snails.

"They are basically eating everything and anything that lies in their path," Mr Apuai said.

He said the pest, introduced from the mainland sometime ago, is threatening the livelihood of the people.

"The pest is eating up all the leaves including vegetables, and the newly-introduced cash crop vanilla," he said."It is even eating taro, which is the staple diet on the island."

Mr Apuai said the situation has caused a great concern among the island community that even local creatures on the island have gone into hiding or disappeared.

"Even the snakes have disappeared since the invasion of snails on the island," he said.

He called upon various authorities including the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the National Agriculture Research Institute to conduct an investigation into the cause of the plague.

The Madang provincial administrator's office could not be contacted to verify the report. However the Provincial Disaster and Emergency Office said they would investigate the matter this week.

August 25, 2004

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