By James Langton
French chefs are accused of poaching English snails so that they can cook them in butter.
Conservationists say there is strong evidence that a population of rare Roman snails living in woodland is being decimated by unscrupulous restaurateurs.
The snails, which can grow to up to 10cm in length, are worth up to Dh6 each on the black market and used as escargot in cuisine.
They have proven easy to catch because they live only in a 30-metre-square patch and because, well, they are snails.
Andy Keay, a conservation volunteer, said he recently caught a poacher with two bulging carrier bags: "I told him he was breaking the law, and I grabbed the bags, and the snails stayed."