An illegal shipment of 67 “extremely invasive” giant snails from Africa to San Dimas was intercepted at Los Angeles International Airport, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service announced on Monday.
The snails, which have since been incinerated, were shipped for human consumption and were intercepted while still alive. They came from Lagos, Nigeria in two plastic baskets. The combined packages weighed more than 35 pounds.
The snails were seized on July 1 and were identified on July 7 as Giant African Snails that can grow to lengths of about eight inches with shells of some five inches in diameter, according to Customs. The identification was made by a mollusk specialist in Washington D.C.
“These pests are a very serious threat to our agriculture, natural ecosystem, public health and economy,” the Customs press release stated. “They can consume more than 500 types of plants and, if vegetables or fruits are not available, will even eat the paint and stucco off of houses.” They can also carry a parasite that can cause meningitis.
The recent seizure was the largest interception of invasive snails in Los Angeles, a Customs spokeswoman said. The agency had encountered the species before, said spokeswoman Lee Harty, but only “hitchhiking” – entering the United States along with other goods.
“Never in this quantity,” she said. “Never for human consumption.”
Harty said the agency would not disclose the identity of the intended recipient.
Importing the snails is illegal under U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.