Conservationists from Whipsnade Zoo head to French Polynesia in project to save endangered snails

It may not have the same profile as a black rhino, be as powerful as a tiger or look as cute as a giant panda, but when it comes to endangered creatures - it is near the top of the list.

The tiny Partula snail was once a common sight in French Polynesia and a critical part of the island's eco-system.

But the animals were all but wiped out in the 1990s after a non-native species began to eat them.

Now conservationists at Whipsnade Zoo have been helping to return eight species of the snail to the wild.

Partula snails can be as small as a grain of rice when they are born Credit: Whipsnade ZSL

It is part of a joint breeding project also involving London Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo and Bristol Zoo Project. Whipsnade invertebrate specialist Tyrone Capel arrived on the island on Monday 4 September and has already released hundreds of the fingernail-sized animals onto the volcanic island of Moorea. “Partula snails, when born, are roughly the size of a grain of rice and can grow to about 2cm, so you need to be very delicate with them.

“We packaged the snails carefully in tissue and carboard tubes for their 22-hour flight, and a few days later the team and I trekked three hours into the forests of Moorea to release more than 1,600 Moorean Partula snails into the wild.

Since 2015 more than 24,000 Partula snails have been reintroduced. Researchbers monitor their progress.

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