LOS ANGELES—U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) inspected an air cargo shipment declared as 67 live snails. Accompanying paperwork described them as Achatina Fulica for human consumption. They arrived from Lagos, Nigeria in two plastic basket packages weighing slightly more than 35 pounds in total and were destined for San Dimas, California.
After submitting an urgent sample to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologists, their acting national mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C., identified them as
Giant African Snails - scientifically known as Archachatina (Calachatina) marginata var. ovum (Pfeiffer) (Achatinidae). CBP received notification of this on July 7.
Native to Africa, their other commonly known names are Giant African Land Snail, West African Snail, West African Land Snail, Banana Rasp Snail, and Margie.
“This 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. It exemplifies how CBP agriculture specialists protect our nation’s agriculture from the introduction of threatening foreign pests, plants and diseases,” said Todd C. Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles.
USDA emphasized the importance of safeguarding this shipment of one of the most extremely damaging snail species. Thereafter, CBP transferred the shipment to USDA’s local Plant Inspection Station for final disposition.
These pests are a very serious threat to our agriculture, natural ecosystem, public health and economy. 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 be carriers of several parasites which are harmful to humans, one of which can lead to meningitis.
Being one of the world’s largest land snails, these mollusks can reach up to about eight inches long, about five inches in diameter and may live up to 10 years.
Suggested preventative measures include strict quarantine to prevent introduction and further spread.