Nantou snails devour mail

SNAIL MAIL::A Nantou County councilor said that if important letters are eaten by snails, residents’ right to postal service is not being adequately protected

By Chen Hsin-jen and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 - Page 5

Residents of a mountain village in Nantou County were mystified why their postal mail would sometimes go missing.

The cause was only recently found — snails have been eating their mail.

Residents of Shueili Village (水里), Shueili Township (水里), found the cause of the missing mail amusing and exasperating at the same time.

With the “culprits” identified, the residents said they hoped the post office could help them set up a better mail-receiving facility.

Because their homes in Shueili Village are scattered across a mountainous area, the villagers collectively set up a simple wooden construction for the postal service to drop off the mail, with slots for each household.

However, residents often had problems with the storage and safekeeping of the delivered mail.

A villager surnamed Chang (張) said that during typhoons and rainy days, the letters often became wet, torn and would sometimes fall apart.

Other times, residents would come to pick up their mail, but find that it was missing.

Residents said they thought it was unlikely that people in the village would steal their mail, as they are all honest and friendly.

The mystery continued until recently, when they found one disintegrating envelope covered in snails and realized that the letters did not disappear, but had become a feast for these gastropods.

When Nantou County Councilor Chen Chao-yu (陳昭煜) went to inspect the village’s wooden mail drop-off point, he found residents complaining that they often did not receive their utility bills.

“It is not easy to keep letters safe in this kind of simple mail construction,” Chen said. “These villagers usually don’t pick up their mail every day. If some important letters are eaten by snails, their right to proper postal service is not being protected.”

Most households in remote areas are scattered across a large area, which is why these places usually set up simple collective mail drop-off points, to make it easier to receive and deliver mail, an official at the Nantou County Post Office said.

However, the post office will look into the situation and find ways to better address the needs of residents in these areas, the official said, adding that people should meanwhile check their mailboxes regularly to ensure important mail is collected on time.

Tsai Chi-li (蔡奇立), a specialist at the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute in Nantou’s Jiji Township (集集), said that most snails are omnivores, eating a variety of foods.

Most of the snails found in the countryside and mountain areas feed on many kinds of vegetables and fruits and have been known to eat tissue paper, he said.

Therefore it is not surprising to find the snails feasting on mail that has been soaked and softened up by the rain, he added.