Poachers in Surrey have been caught with bags of rare snails, with the intention of selling them to local restaurants.
The Roman snail is Britain’s largest snail, and can only be found in a handful of southern counties. They can live for up to 20 years.
Known as l’escargot in culinary circles, they are captured and sold illegally to chefs.
The species is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but conservationists have discovered a 66% loss in local populations over the last two years alone.
Despite the existence and success of snail farms, specifically created to supply the culinary industry, the illegal capture of Roman snails is seen as a ‘quick fix’ to poachers.
Conservationists are worried that the population will be hard to recover, as it can take up to five years for a Roman snail to mature to breeding age.
Andy Keay, a volunteer in the area, told The Mirror that they want local police to become more active in the fight against poachers:
“It makes me very angry. If we catch anyone poaching in future we’ll call 999.”
Click here for more information about Roman snails.