The Powelliphanta snail is a giant of the snail world, growing up to 90mm across. Throw in the fact it is carnivorous and sucks up earthworms like spaghetti and it is certainly not your common garden snail.
The Abel Tasman is home to the unique sub-species Powelliphanta hochstetteri hochstetteri (yellow based) which are in gradual decline. Northwest Nelson and Westland are national strongholds for Powelliphanta snails, and in the Park they are found in the beech forest habitat at Waterfall Creek, Wainui Valley, Jenkins Creek, Evans Creek and Glennies Clearing.
Powelliphanta are among the largest snails in the world but are one of our most threatened invertebrates as they are very vulnerable to possums, rats, pigs, hedgehogs and thrushes. They are particularly attractive with their colourful yellow, brown and black patterned shells. During the day you are most likely to see an empty, usually damaged shell as the snails are nocturnal and live buried in leaf mould or under logs, only coming out at night to forage and mate.
A number of small, localised colonies also occur near the mouth of several large rivers that originate in the high country of the Park and these snails are thought to have been dispersed in floods. You may see them on the Wainui Hut or Harwoods Hole tracks, or at Moa Park.
Photos courtesy of Ruth Bollongino fernphotos.com