WALKERS in the Chilterns are being urged to keep their eyes peeled for snail snatchers who are selling the slimy creatures to restaurants.
A spate of thefts of Roman snails has prompted a police investigation in the Chilterns because it is believed people have been poaching the precious protected species.
It is now feared that the poachers will begin snail snatching in the Chilterns, where the slow molluscs are known to live and breed. The chalky Chiltern Hills are the perfect environment for the creatures.
Slippery thieves are already accused of wiping out 70 per cent of Surrey’s Roman snails, prompting the warning from police in the Chilterns, which is known for its large snail population. Roman snails are worth about £1 each and are being scavenged and turned into the French delicacy escargot.
In England, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it illegal to ‘kill, injure or take a Roman snail’ or ‘sell, offer for sale or advertise live or dead Roman snails’.
Spokesman for walking group Ramblers, Sam Newby-Ricci, said: “We’re keen to hear from any local ramblers who may have noticed that there is a decline in the number of snails in Buckinghamshire.
“It might be difficult to tell, but ramblers are extremely familiar with their local countryside and know what’s normal and what’s not. I hope that if there has been any illicit plundering of snail stocks that we could alert the relevant authority appropriately.”
Richard Chantler of the Chiltern Society said: “I’d absolutely urge people to keep their eyes open. I’m surprised that people do this, I’ve never heard of it.
“We want to encourage people not to poach in the Chilterns and we will do anything we can to help and make people aware of what’s going on. I’ve never eaten snails, they do not appeal to me in the slightest.”
● Have you noticed a reduction of Roman snails in the Chilterns? Email our letters page at email@example.com.