An experiment was conducted to study the effects of different protein sources at varying levels on the performance and the carcass characteristics of the African giants land snail (Archachatina marginata). Soyabean meal and groundnut cake were used as test proteins. Four diets were formulated from each of the two proteins such that each was included at 16%, 18%, 20% and 22% of the diets. A 2 x 4 factorial arrangement in CRD was used with eight treatments. Each treatment was replicated thrice with four snails per replicate. The trial lasted for 90 days. The protein source main effects were significant (P<0.05) in average daily feed intake, percentage shell weight and percentage edible weight of the snails fed the experimental diets. The protein levels main effect were also significant (P<0.05) in protein efficiency ratio, percentage shell weight, percentage edible weight and percentage visceral weight. The interactions between protein sources and protein levels were also significant (P<0.05) in protein efficiency ratio, percentage shell weight, percentage edible weight and percentage visceral weight of the snails fed the treatment diets. Mortality was not recorded during the experiment. The growth performance show that soybean based diets were better than groundnut cake based diets and that soyabean should be included at 22% for an optimum growth of snails.

Heliculture, which is the process of farming or raising snails, has become very important in recent times because of increased animal protein shortage in Nigeria. Also, the availability of some edible snails in Nigeria, their popularity and acceptability nationwide, the potential for export, including the emerging technologies for their production have largely contributed towards the present renewed interest in snail farming (Amusan and Omidiji, 1998). Ebenebe (2000) pointed out that it is high time we looked inward and integrate into our farming system some non-conventional meat sources like snails. This will go a long way in reducing the problem of protein malnutrition, which is real in most developing countries of the world. These countries are mostly located in the warm humid tropics where the level of animal protein intake represents about one-tenth of the level of intake in the advanced countries (Esonu, 2001). Kehinde et al., (2002) reported that the protein consumption in Nigeria is below 67g recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Snail farming can conveniently be done in our back yards. This is due to the fact that snail farming is environmentally friendly and can be done with little skill (Akinnusi, 1998; NRC, 1991). The faecal matters neither smell nor make the environment filthy in any way. Snails are also good converter of vegetable protein to useful animal protein (Obi et al., 2001). They provide a very cheap source of high quality animal protein for human consumption. Snail farming is also a high profit-yielding venture and requires little capital when compared to other forms of animal farming. Thousands of land Snails can be raised in a small land space if intensively managed and there is always less need for vaccination and therapeutic drugs. Predators, parasites, and disease can easily be prevented through proper housing, management, and sanitation. These comparative advantages over other live stocks should be used as an edge to increase snail production.

Snail production has gone to an advanced stage in America, Europe and Asia but in Africa, much research work has not been carried out (Rebecca and Sheldon, 2004). The species of snail that are common in temperate regions are Helix aspersa, Helix pomatia, Helix lucorum, Helix cibeta, Iberus alonensis and Otala-puntata. Those species that are common in tropical African include Achatina achatina, Achatina fulica, Archachatina marginata, Archachatina ventricosa, Archachatina degneri and Limicolaria species. In West Africa, Archachatina marginata of Nigeria and Achatina achatina of Ghana are the two largest species of snails. Achatina achatina produces the highest number of eggs of about 100-500 eggs per clutch. Other snails of African origin produce less number of eggs of between 5-15 eggs per clutch. Achatina achatina is also known to be the tropical species of snail that is most accepted in the World market (Amusan and Omidiji, 1998).

Snail meat competes favourably with poultry egg and flesh in essential amino acids and digestible protein (Imevbore, 1990). It is essentially rich in lysine, leucine, isoleucine,phenylalanine,arginine and tryptophan and contains high level of iron, calcium and phosphorus (Dada et al., 1999). The galacton present in its abdominal gland serves as a medicinal substance of high immunological value, which cures tuberculosis, ulcer, asthma and circulatory disorders. Okonkwo et al. (2000) also pointed out that snail meat is useful in the treatment of some human diseases like anaemia, hypertension, asthma, etc. while its shell can be used in the production of buttons, rings and other jewelry. It is unequivocally clear that the importance of improving snail production cannot be overemphasized.

Success in snail production involves among other things proper nutrition. Nutrients such as energy, protein and minerals should always be provided. According to Olomu (1995), protein functions mainly in tissue growth, Carbohydrate (in nitrogen-free extract) provides the necessary energy for metabolic activities, while calcium functions in shell growth (Akinnusi 1988). Stievenart (1992), Omole et al. (2000) and Ejidike (2001) pointed out the need to use complete balanced feeds in snail production. Feed formulated to meet the....

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