What the snail: Giant snails seized at Houston airport

National News

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM)- U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport intercepted 15 live Giant Land Snails from a passenger’s luggage in early July.

While the giant African land snail might seem like a fun exotic pet to keep, it’s considered one of the most invasive pests in the world. (credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The passenger was traveling from Nigeria and initially only declared dried beef but later amended her declaration to include live snails. During an examination of the her luggage, agriculture specialists found three plastic zip-closed 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 who identified the snails as Giant Land Snails also known as Banana Rasp Snails.

“Our agriculture specialists remain vigilant in protecting the U.S. from foreign animal and plant disease that could threaten U.S. crop production and livestock industry or be transmitted to humans,” said Houston CBP Port Director Shawn Polley.

The snails are native to West Africa and affect fruit crops and plants. Giant African snails are believed to carry a parasite (in its slime, 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 affect agriculture, natural ecosystems, human health or commerce. They are relentless omnivores, and have been known to chew through plaster walls. Land snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they possess both the female and male reproductive organs. Two snails are still needed for breeding, but they are very prolific 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 approximately 30 countries.

The snails intercepted by the port were turned over to USDA for final disposition.
While the giant African land snail might seem like a fun pet to keep, it’s considered one of the most invasive pests in the world. Most exotic pet veterinarians in the U.S. will not treat the snails either because they are illegal.

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