What the snail: Large snails confiscated at Houston Airport

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) – US Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at George Bush Intercontinental Airport intercepted 15 live giant land snails from a passenger’s luggage in early July.

While the giant African land snail may seem like a fun exotic pet, it is considered to be one of the most invasive pests in the world. (Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The passenger traveled from Nigeria and initially only declared dried beef, but later added live snails to her declaration. When examining their luggage, agricultural specialists found three plastic zippered bags containing the live snails with fresh leaves and about 0.25 pounds of beef. The snails were turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which identified the snails as Giant Land Snails, also known as shredded banana snails.

“Our agricultural specialists remain vigilant in protecting the US from foreign animal and plant diseases that threaten or could be transmitted to US crop and livestock production,” said Shawn Polley, director of the Port of Houston CBP.

The snails are native to West Africa and attack fruit crops and plants. It is believed that giant African snails carry a parasite (in their mucus, no less) that is responsible for a form of meningitis that is harmful to humans. This species of snail is a potentially serious threat as an invasive species that could negatively impact agriculture, natural ecosystems, human health, or trade. Relentless omnivores, they are known for chewing through plaster walls. Land snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both female and male reproductive organs. Two more snails are needed to breed, but they are very productive breeders. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,800 cases have been reported in the medical and scientific literature from around 30 countries.

The snails captured by the port were given to the USDA for final disposal.
While the giant African land snail may seem like a fun pet, it is considered to be one of the most invasive pests in the world. Most exotic vets in the U.S. also don’t treat the snails because they’re illegal.

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