Confiscated Giant African Snails are shown in this handout
photo released to Reuters.
US customs inspectors at Los Angeles International
Airport seized a shipment of several dozen live giant African
snails, considered a delicacy in Nigeria but also voracious
pests that can eat paint and stucco off houses.
Weighing nearly 2 pounds (0.9 kg) each, including their
shells, and measuring about 15cm in length, the 67 snails
arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, in two plastic baskets with
paperwork describing them as being for human consumption, the
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said.
The molluscs appeared to be packaged as a personal shipment
and were marked as destined for an address in San Dimas,
California, about 50km east of Los Angeles, agency
spokeswoman Lee Harty said.
No attempt was made to conceal or smuggle the snails, the
largest such shipment ever seized at LAX, she said. But the
creatures are prohibited from entry because they are deemed a
highly invasive pest that pose a serious threat to US
agriculture, the environment and public health, the agency
According to Customs and Border Protection, the giant snails
can consume more than 500 types of plants, and will even
munch on the exterior of homes if fruits and vegetables are
They also can carry several parasites harmful to humans,
including one that can lead to meningitis, Harty said.
After they were intercepted by customs officials at the
airport on July 1, specimens were sent to a local US
Department of Agriculture lab and then on to USDA mollusc
specialists in Washington for further examination.
Experts identified the creatures as belonging to the giant
African snail species, known by the scientific name
Archachatina marginata. They also are commonly referred to as
giant African land snails, West African snails, West African
land snails or banana rasp snails.
Each of the molluscs, with striated brownish-orange shells,
can easily fill the palm of a person's hand. They can grow up
to 20cm in length and may live up to 10 years in the wild,
The entire collection confiscated at the airport was
eventually turned over to the USDA, which disposed of the
snails through incineration, although no garlic or butter was
used, Harty said.