Increased trafficking of colorful snail shells is now posing a serious threat to these species. The ‘painted snails’ are native to Cuba and are known to be the world’s most beautiful snails. These snails belong to the genus Polymita. Due to their beauty, Cuban painted snails have been sought after by collectors, who sell their shells to American and European markets. This practice has pushed the six species of Cuban painted snails to the brink of extinction. Currently, all of the six species have been classified as being critically endangered.
Although there are laws that prohibit the trade of painted snails in Cuba, the illegal wildlife trade continues to threaten their existence. According to National Geographic, there is evidence that painted snails are being sold in Cuba under the watch of government authorities. Between 2012 and 2016, about 23,000 painted snails were seized on their way to the U.S. by the Cuba’s customs department. You do not need to look far to see the evidence of the snails being sold. There are many American websites that currently sell the painted snail shells and even live snails.
The efforts to protect the colored snails are also being hampered by the locals, who collect and sell the snails to tourists. While the government has put in place a fine of up to $20 per violation, it is evident that locals have made underground ways of accessing foreign markets.
Currently, some biologists and environmental conservation groups are working toward educating the locals about the importance of the painted snails. Bernardo Reyes-Tur, a conservation biologist at the University of Oriente, Norvis Hernandez, a biologist with Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, and their colleagues are leading the way in educating Cubans about the benefits of having the snails around in place of selling them cheaply. If the animals are protected, they will have more value to the locals than they have on the market.