Los Angeles International Airport customs inspectors intercepted a pair of baskets containing dozens of live giant African snails, described by federal officials as one of the largest and most destructive land snail species in the world.
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The 67 snails were found packed in an air cargo shipment that had arrived from Nigeria and was bound for San Dimas, California, Homeland Security officials said in a news release Monday. The paperwork that came with the shipment claimed the 35 pounds of mollusks were meant "for human consumption."
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The invasive snails, which are native to Africa, can grow up to 8 inches long, about 5 inches wide and can live for a decade, officials said.
"These pests are a very serious threat to our agriculture, natural ecosystem, public health and economy. They can consume more than 500 types of plants and, if vegetables or fruits are not available, will even eat the paint and stucco off of houses," officials said. "They can be carriers of several parasites which are harmful to humans, one of which can lead to meningitis."
Officials said the mollusks were taken to the USDA's local inspection station.
"This significant interception of giant African snails is the first time this pest has been encountered in such large quantity and as a consumption entry by CBP in Los Angeles," officials said.