Sixty-seven live giant African snails were discovered in two picnic baskets at the Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month. The snails, which collectively weighed 35 pounds, were sent from Lagos, Nigeria, to a person in San Dimas, Ca., and were apparently intended for human consumption.
In the past, federal inspectors have discovered one or two of the large snails hidden in luggage, but this marked "the first time this pest has been encountered in such large quantity and as a consumption entry" in Los Angeles, said Todd C. Owen, director of field operations for the customs agency.
Giant African snails, also known as land snails, can live as long as 10 years and grow up to eight inches long. The snails can carry parasites harmful to humans.
Owing to the snails' potential threat to humans, they were incinerated after being inspected, Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Borders told the Associated Press. But apparently it's no big deal if you accidentally bring crop-killing, possibly-people-hurting mollusks into the country.
"We're investigating what happened but it doesn't seem like there was smuggling involved. When someone doesn't know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment," Maveeda Mirza, CBP program manager for agriculture, told the Associated Press.
[Image via Los Angeles Times/U.S. Customs and Border Protection]