'One of Most Damaging Snails' Seized at Houston Airport

Passenger had 15 live giant land snails
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2021 5:00 AM CDT
'One of Most Damaging Snails' Seized at Houston Airport
CBP described the species as a potential threat to "agriculture, natural ecosystems, human health, or commerce."   (US Customs and Border Protection)

Some 15 snails that can grow to be the size of small dogs were seized from a passenger's luggage in Houston earlier this month, officials say. The banana rasp snails, also known as giant land snails, were found in the luggage of a passenger traveling from Nigeria, CBS reports. The live snails were in zip-locked plastic bags, along with leaves and a quarter-pound of beef, according to a US Customs and Border Protection press release. Officials say the snails were seized after the woman amended her passenger declaration to include them.

The snails, which are eaten in Nigeria and other West African countries, can grow to be around 8 inches long. The US Department of Agriculture describes the species as "one of the most damaging snails in the world." They can be an invasive species—although not an especially fast-spreading one—and they are known carriers of the rat lungworm, which can cause rare forms of meningitis in humans. Officials say the snails seized at George Bush Intercontinental Airport were turned over to the USDA for "final disposition." After giant land snails were smuggled into Florida, the eradication program took 10 years and cost $1 million, MySA reports. (In 2014, dozens of the snails were seized at LAX.)

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