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Hunting season for rock snails along Cuc Phuong forest

THANH HOA – After each shower, the villagers of Dang Thuong, Thach Thanh district, go to the mountain to find stone snails to make food and sell to tourists to visit Cuc Phuong.

Early in late July, Mr. Nguyen Van Thanh, 30 years old, in Dang Thuong village, Thach Lam commune, Thach Thanh district, held a knife, carried a bag and walked towards the limestone mountain behind the village. Last night, this area had showers, and guessing that many stone snails crawled out of the cave to find food, so Mr. Thanh and more than a dozen people went to catch snails.

Hunting season for rock snails along Cuc Phuong forest
Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Chinh brought stone snails to the area of ​​​​May waterfall to sell to tourists. Photo: Le Hoang

Crossing a few acacia plantations at the foot of the mountain, you will reach the place where the snails are located, about 3 km from Thanh’s house. For many years, he followed his parents to catch stone snails, so he was quite proficient in his skills. Crouching into the thicket in front of him, running his hand through the fallen leaves on the ground, he picked up two snails the size of a cup and put it in the bag behind him.

Looking around, taking a few more steps, he found other snails. “It’s in the right season, so the snails are fat, all of them are tight,” Thanh said. In the first patch of forest, he got a few dozen. Continue to other forests and after about 3 hours, Mr. Thanh returned with the result of 4 kg of snails.

Bringing the newly caught snails home, Mr. Thanh poured them into a basket for his mother to wash before bringing them down the slopes near May waterfall to sell to tourists. Each kilogram of rock snails (70-80 pieces per kilogram) retails for 80,000-90,000 VND, at a slightly lower wholesale price. Nearly half of that working day, Mr. Thanh earned more than 200,000 VND.

Stone snails in Thach Lam are in the main season, so they are very fat, as big as a buffalo’s eye cup. Photo: Le Hoang

Ms. Bui Thi Uyen, 60, said that the rock snail, also known as the mountain snail or the medicinal snail, is a mollusk that is considered a specialty by the Muong. The snail is as big as a drinking cup, the body is flat, brown or striped with white streaks. This species usually lives on the limestone slopes with high humidity, most often in the primeval forest. Dang Thuong is located in the buffer zone of the Cuc Phuong national forest, so there are many snails.

The season of rock snails usually starts from the end of March, lasts until the 9th lunar month, the busiest in the middle of summer. Snails do not gather in one place but live scattered everywhere. Capturing the characteristics of rock snails that often crawl out after heavy sunshine and showers to feed, the villagers will choose the right time to catch them. To catch a lot, people have to get up early when they leave the cave and finish when the sun rises.

“Snail stones are not only used as food but also as valuable medicine because they often eat leaves and herbs in the forest and have high nutritional value,” said Ms. Uyen. In the past, the people of Dang Thuong only caught snails for food, but in recent years, many tourists have come to explore May Waterfall, preferring to enjoy local dishes, so snails are mainly sold to guests.

The most delicious stone snail dish is steamed with lemongrass and lemon leaves. Photo: Le Hoang

After 30 years of catching stone snails, Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Chinh, 65, said that more than a decade ago, snails were countless, catching 7-8 kg in one session, not eating all of them had to be shared with neighbors. But in recent years, many people have been searching and catching continuously, so the number of snails has gradually decreased. On free days, sometimes 40-50 people from Dang Thuong village invite each other to find snails. Every season, hard-working people can earn 4-5 million VND.

Now, if you want to catch a lot of snails, you have to go deep into the forest, few people come. Mr. Chinh said there were people who were skilled in the profession, familiar with the forest road, and traveled as far as 10 km. There was no path in the jungle, so some people got lost and had to sleep again the next day before returning to the village.

“Capturing snails is an ancient habit formed by the villagers. This job is not difficult, but climbing is hard, often facing many dangers such as slipping and falling, being bitten by snakes and insects causing injury. …”, Mr. Chinh said.

Stone snails mainly eat forest leaves and herbs, so they are quite clean. Snails caught and washed, soaked in water for about half an hour, can be grilled, fried with tamarind, steamed with ginger and lemongrass, mixed with onion salad… The best is still boiled snails because they retain the aroma of the medicine. “The mountain snails in Thach Lam are tougher, more fragrant and fatter than in other regions,” Chinh said.

In addition to Thach Lam, stone snails also live on limestone slopes in Cam Thuy, Ngoc Lac, Ba Thuoc districts or Nho Quan (Ninh Binh), Mai Son, Lac Thuy (Hoa Binh)…

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