Customs seize giant invasive snails at Detroit airport

(CNN) Customs officials at Detroit Metropolitan Airport made an unusual — and potentially dangerous — discovery in a passenger’s luggage: six giant African snails.

The live snails were found in the suitcase of a traveler arriving in Detroit from the West African country of Ghana, according to a news release from US Customs and Border Protection on Friday.

According to the press release, the animals are considered a “prohibited organism” in the United States because they can cause disease in humans and cause significant damage to the environment if released into the wild.

Despite this, people around the world eat the snails and keep them as pets in some countries.

“Our CBP officers and agriculture specialists are working diligently to target, detect and intercept potential threats before they have a chance to harm U.S. interests,” Port Director Robert Larkin said in the release. “The discovery of this highly invasive pest is truly beneficial to the health and well-being of the American population.”

Native to East Africa, the snails can grow up to 8 inches long. African giant snails can carry a parasite called rat lungworm, which causes meningitis in humans. In addition, they eat at least 500 different species of plants and even consume the plaster and stucco of houses as a source of calcium, which can cause environmental damage if released into the wild, Customs and Border Protection said.

In July, a Florida county was quarantined after officials discovered a rapidly growing population of the snails. The population was thought to have come from the illegal pet trade.

A previous population of African giant snails found in Miami-Dade County took 10 years and millions of dollars to completely eradicate. The snails can produce up to 2,500 eggs per year, making population control difficult.


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