US Customs and Border Protection agents at LAX successfully intercepted a shipment of picnic baskets filled with 67 live giant African snails, the agency announced Monday. The snail shipment, which weighed in at over 35 pounds, was actually seized on July 1st. They were sent here from Nigeria with paperwork specifying the snails were meant for human consumption. The Los Angeles Times says the snails are sometimes fried up and served as snacks. But they never reached their intended destination, and now they're all dead. The 67 snails were incinerated once inspectors positively identified them. That may strike you as a harsh response, but giant African snails are classified as a prohibited species because they can prove incredibly harmful to local plants, structures, and sometimes humans.
Sometimes a pest, other times a snack
The snails feast on over 500 types of plants in a constant search for calcium needed to grow their shells. And when there are no more plants to be found, stucco and plaster apparently make for a fine substitute. They can also carry a parasite capable of causing illness (including meningitis) in people. Florida has had to deal with occasional infestations since 2011; inspectors with the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have destroyed more than 140,000 snails. And with the recent LAX interception, Florida is urging residents to keep watch yet again. Previous attempts at raising public awareness have included some truly incredible ads like the one below.
Officials say the intended recipient is unlikely to face any charges for the failed delivery of 67 slimy snails. "We're investigating what happened but it doesn't seem like there was smuggling involved," a spokesperson told Fox News. "When someone doesn't know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment." No punishment other than a fiery, hellish death for the snails, that is. A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said the incident marks "the first time this pest has been encountered in such large quantity and as a consumption entry."