Customs officials found a load of giant African snails — known as one of the most damaging snail species in the world — in a man’s luggage at JFK Airport this week.
Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered the 22 slimy, highly invasive critters during a baggage examination of an American man who arrived Sunday on a flight from Ghana, according to a news release.
The giant African snail consumes at least 500 types of plants and wreaks havoc on tropical and sub-tropical environments, officials said.
The snails — which produce about 1,200 eggs in a single year — also pose a health risk to humans because they carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis, officials said.
They are also known to cause structural damage to plaster and stucco structures.
In addition to the invasive snails, the man’s luggage contained about 24 pounds collectively of prohibited oxtail, dried beef, turkey berry, carrot, medicinal leaves and prekese, a traditional African spice and medicinal plant product, officials said.
The traveler declared all of the items, so he was released, a CBP spokesman said. All of the items were seized.
“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists are our nation’s frontline defenders against invasive plant and animal pests that threaten our agricultural resources, and they face this complex and challenging mission with extraordinary commitment and vigilance,” Marty C. Raybon, acting director of field operations for CBP’s New York field office, said in a statement.
The giant African snail — whose scientific name is Lissachatina fulica — was first found in southern Florida in the 1960s, and it took 10 years and $1 million to eradicate it, according to the USDA.