67 live giant African snails were confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Control officials at Los Angeles International Airport. The snails were so large, they weighed 2-pounds each and measured at about 6-inches long, LA Times reports.
Reuters reports that the pests were sent from Lagos, Nigeria. They were contained in two plastic baskets with paperwork attached, indicating they were intended for human consumption, the customs agency said. The package was marked for an address in San Dimas, California and looked like a personal shipment, Los Angeles, agency spokeswoman Lee Harty said.
Officials at the agency said on Monday that the snails are invasive and pose serious threats to U.S. agriculture, the environment, and public health.
Harty says the snails were the largest shipment ever seized at LAX. They were discovered on July 1. The snails were sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab and then transferred to USDA mollusk specialist in Washington for additional examination. Eventually they were destroyed by incineration.
The 67 giant African snails can do massive damage quickly by consuming more than 500 different types of plants and will eat paint off houses if fruits and vegetables aren’t available. Parasites are also a threat to humans from the snails, including meningitis.
According to the Reuters report, “experts identified the creatures as belonging to the giant African snail species, known by the scientific name Archachatina marginata. They also are commonly referred to as giant African land snails, West African snails, West African land snails or banana rasp snails.”
The mollusks are capable of growing up to 8-inches-long and living up to 10 years in the wild.
Snails like these are sometimes fried or served as snacks, LA Times reports. In some parts of the world they’re considered a delicacy. The Hollywood Reporter says in its report that the cost of such a delicacy is pricey. It can cost upwards of $50 to feed a dinner party in Nigeria.
Will anyone be charged with an offense for the shipment of snails seized at LAX? A spokesperson from the customs agency says:
“When someone doesn’t know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment.”
Giant African land snails made news last August when Inquisitr published a report on dogs hunting 125,000 snails in Florida. The pests were invading the habitat and had to be destroyed.
Foreign species aren’t typically meant to be removed from their natural environment due to threatening others where they don’t belong. The 67 giant African snails could have been a real problem if they somehow got loose.
[Image via ABC News]