November 18, 2018

Giant African Land Snails Seized at L.A. Airport

Public health officials have seized 67 giant African land snails at the L.A. airport on July 1, 2014, because they are prohibited in this country. The animals are considered a delicacy in some countries, especially Nigeria, where they are used to make stews. The snails can carry parasites that cause meningitis.

These animals are a threat to public health, agriculture, and the economy. Paperwork that was packed with the snails stated they were for human consumption. This particular species is an agricultural pest. Maveeda Mirza, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture program manager said, “these snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to.”

These snails have been smuggled into the country before, but only a few at a time hidden in luggage. This is the first time the snails have been imported for human consumption and in such large quantities.

The snails are well established in the Indo-Pacific Basin. The federal Plant Protection¬†Act prohibits the “unauthorized importation, entry, exportation or movement in interstate commerce of the giant African land snail without a permit from the USDA.” The snails are used for science lessons in schools by people who not aware of the risks associated with the animals.

The snails reach up to 8″ in length and 4″ diameter and are about the size of an average-size adult fist. They can weigh as much as 35 pounds apiece. The shell is brown with darker brown vertical strips that covers at least half of the length of the snail. If the shell is more than 2″ long, it is more than likely a giant African land snail.

These snails, along with their eggs and bedding, must be collected by state and federal inspectors instead of being released into the wild or disposed in a landfill. The animals have a huge appetite and will eat ornamental plants, tree bark, and paint and stucco on houses. They reproduce rapidly, laying 100 to 400 eggs in a single session.

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