Why Do These Snails Climb Trees to Survive?

KAMPONG SPEU – When the dry season arrives, Burgundy snails (Helix pomatia) and Spotted Babylon (Babylonia areolata) leave their ground-level habitat to live in tree trunk holes and openings.

They have adapted this way to survive natural forest fires after the monsoon season.

People living in flat land areas often find them in shallow bodies of water, rice paddies or on rice plants. In mountainous areas, these snails spend half a year finding food and the other half sheltering in tree trunks without much food.

Teb Keng, a forest guard of the Bram Bei Mum forest community in Kampong Speu province, said the locals do not eat the snails in the rainy season.

“Actually, these molluscs are afraid of forest fires,” Teb Keng said.

“They need to stay up here to survive. When it rains, they come back down and lay their eggs on leaves normally. If they stay on ground level, they might live in termite mounds or rat holes. But these places are not safe for them.”

Locals use axes or scrapers to gather the molluscs from inside the trees. Sometimes, they need to climb 20 metres to get to the snails, which are popular among consumers with their densely packed meat and mild bitter taste.  Bigger snails can fetch 1000 riels (25 cents) each.

Finders can spot the snail’s presence from their saliva traces. However, some trees do not host the snails even though there is saliva. This is because the snails will come back down to find other trees where the previous trees do not have holes to get into.

Written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey News, this article was translated by Ky Chamna for Cambodianess.

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