LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The United States Customs and Border Protection said Monday that agriculture specialists at Los Angeles International Airport intercepted 67 invasive snails in an air cargo shipment, officials said.
According to authorities, CBP received notice of the shipment of snails on July 7, which contained two plastic packages in total weighing just over 35 pounds. The cargo arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, and was to be delivered to the San Dimas area, with paperwork stating they were ‘Achatina Fulica’ and were meant for human consumption, officials stated in a news release.
“The significant interception of giant African snails is the first time this pest has been encountered in such large quantity and as a consumption entry by CBP in Los Angeles,” said Todd C. Owen, CBP Director of Field Operations.
CBP officials stated that they submitted an urgent sample to the United States Department of Agriculture plant protection and quarantine entomologists, where a specialist in Washington, D.C., identified them as giant African snails.
According to USDA officials, these snails are native to Africa and can grow to about 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and live to be 10 years old. They are commonly referred to as giant African land snail, banana rasp snail, margie, West African snail and West African land snail, authorities said.
Agriculture specialists described these snails as a very serious threat to the natural ecosystem, public health and economy. They are carriers of several parasites that are harmful to humans, one of which can lead to meningitis.
Due to the nature of damaging effect this snail species may cause, the shipment was transferred from CBP officials to the local plant inspection station for final precautionary steps, USDA officials said.
“It exemplifies how CBP agriculture specialists protect our nation’s agriculture from the introduction of threatening foreign pests, plants and diseases,” Owens said.
Being one of the world’s largest land snails, USDA officials said, these pests can consumer over 500 types of plants, and will even eat the stucco and paint off houses.
CBP officials reported that they took preventative measures to quarantine the snails, preventing them from further spreading.