If you're the kind of person who gags a little at the very thought of escargot, then maybe this story isn't for you.
Because federal authorities announced this week that they recently seized 35 pounds worth of giant West African land snails, the largest of their species, at LAX. The massive mollusks can grow to be as large as 8 inches long and 5 inches in diameter, officials said.
The discovery was comprised of 67 live snails flown in from Lagos, Nigeria, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection statement. They were allegedly headed to …
… an address in San Dimas, CBP officials said. The addressee was reportedly not under suspicion.
The snails were found in air cargo, in “two plastic basket packages,” the agency stated. Federal agricultural specialists on hand didn't like what they saw and sent “urgent” samples to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologists, the CBP said.
The USDA's national mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C. determined that the snails were West African giants, a.k.a. Achatina fulica, feds stated.
Why do we care about these creepy crawlers? According to the CBP:
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. They can be carriers of several parasites which are harmful to humans, one of which can lead to meningitis.
A USDA plant would implement “final disposition” of the snails, the CBP said. That sounds to us like the final countdown. Todd C. Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles:
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. It exemplifies how CBP agriculture specialists protect our nation’s agriculture from the introduction of threatening foreign pests, plants and diseases.
We just hope PETA doesn't try to intervene here.