Sixty-seven live giant African snails (weighing about 35 lbs) were seized by United States Customs Officials at Los Angeles International Airport July 1st after they were found in a shipment from Nigeria addressed to an (unidentified) individual in San Ditmas, CA, according to Customs department spokeswoman Lee Harty, who added that a sample of the mollusks was sent to a federal mollusk specialist in Washington DC who identified them as a banned species. The United States Department of Agriculture incinerated the animals the next day after being inspected for parasites that pose major threats to human health (including meningitis).
Although it is highly unlikely that any penalties will be filed against the addressee, the feds are investigating why anyone would want such a large shipment, although they are considered to be a “great delicacy” in Africa.
Adult snails can grow to be nearly 8 inches in length and almost 3 inches tall, and are highly invasive, feeding on everything from fruits, and vegetables to sand, very small stones, bones from carcasses and even concrete as calcium sources for its shell. In rare cases, they have even been known to eat each other. Those in captivity as part of the exotic pet trade have also been fed small bits of chicken as well as bread.
Although native to East Africa (particularly Tanzania and Kenya as well as Nigeria), the highly invasive species has established itself in most hot and humid areas of the world (thanks to illegal dumping), and can now be found in agricultural areas, coastland, natural forest, planted forests, riparian zones between land and rivers or streams, scrub and shrub lands, urban areas, and wetlands in India, China, and southeast Asia, numerous Pacific islands, and those in the Caribbean, as well as Hawaii and Florida, where steps are being taken to eradicate them.