Customs agents at the Los Angeles International Airport intercepted a package containing 67 live giant African land addressed to a person in San Dimas, CA from an address in Nigeria earlier this month.
The snails can grow up to 8 inches long and live for up to 10 years. They are considered a delicacy by snail and escargot aficionados, so the snails were likely destined to die a hot, buttery death and then eaten by foodies.
Giant snails are prohibited in the U.S. because they can cause incredible crop damage and carry harmful parasites, Maveeda Mirza, CBP program manager for agriculture with the U.S. Customs and Border protection, told the Associated Press.
In Florida, 78,000 giant African land snails have been captured in one year, according to state agriculture officials. The largest infestation was discovered in September 2011.
“These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to,” Mirza said.
Authorities are investigating the person that the snails were addressed to, though no immediate penalties could be levied.
“We’re investigating what happened, but it doesn’t seem like there was smuggling involved. When someone doesn’t know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment,” she told the AP.
This is the first time a quantity of snails were caught entering the border — usually it’s just one that’s crawled into someone’s luggage, Mirza told the AP.
The USDA incinerated the snails after they were identified as the prohibited species.