THE AL GILKES COLUMN – At snail’s pace
Once a journalist always a journalist, and my instinct often finds me rushing behind fire trucks, police cars and ambulances and checking other activity to find out what’s the story.
Regretfully, there is a misconception that investigative journalism is only about digging up dirt on politicians, corporate high fliers, successful professionals and famous people even if their pockets have a lot of holes.
As a result, a few years ago when it was reported that giant African snails had been found in Brandons, along the Spring Garden Highway, there was little evidence that any investigation had been done to determine how they had arrived here, what was the likely threat to the country and what could be done to eradicate them.
Then one day, we all awoke in panic to the headline news that the same snail, despite its legendary pace of travel, had somehow covered the island with Bolt lightning speed and was devouring crops and becoming a giant-sized, million-dollar pain in the tail for farmers and homeowners alike. And like the Billy The Kids of American western folklore, a bounty had to be offered for people to catch and bring them in “dead or alive”.
In similar vein to the first sighting of the giant African snail, was the recent report with a hair-raising photograph of a monster centipede caught in the swampy area at Brighton along the Spring Garden Highway. What was it? Where did it possibly come from? What danger did it pose to human beings, livestock or crops? What could be done to make sure it was restricted to Brighton and eradicated there? Not a word.
Well, with Google, it took me just a few seconds to discover that this “animal” is a venomous centipede with 46, not 40 legs, is the largest of its kind in the world, and is commonly known as the Amazonian giant centipede due to its massive size.
The adults reach over 35 centimetres in length, which is nearly 14 inches, or the length of an average man’s forearm. They usually crawl about at night stalking and eating any of several small animals, including lizards, frogs, birds and mice.
Now check this. These new giants on Barbadian soil are not only found in the Amazon jungle but also thrive in Trinidad and Jamaica. Extreme care must be taken in dealing with them because the slightest trace of venom can cause a reaction on the skin.
Fortunately, the poison cannot kill a healthy human adult but the sting causes symptoms such as swelling, chills, fever, weakness, and “uncontrollable running-away-and-screaming”.
Nobody has to tell me that side by side the giant African snail and the Amazonian giant centipede add up to a turtle and a hare-rabbit when it comes to speed.
Therefore, if the snail moved so quickly from Spring Garden to the ends of Barbados, how soon will it be before everything crawling up your walls, through your windows, under your bed, in your bathrooms, on your kitchen floor, around your plants and inside your pieces of clothing is a giant centipede?
Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org