Earlier this month someone tried to import 67 invasive giant African land snails through the Los Angeles International Airport. Unwittingly, apparently, says the Associated Press. They must have missed Smart News' story last year on the havoc these snails have wreaked in Australia and elsewhere.
Giant land snails are "considered a delicacy in parts of their native Africa," says National Geographic, but in the US they're nothing but a huge problem. Over here, the baseball-sized snails have no natural predators.
The snails have an appetite for hundreds of kinds of crops as well as the stucco houses that are common in warm states. If they eat rat stool, they can catch something called "rat lungworm," which transmits meningitis to humans. (Though this is rare, why risk something called "rat lungworm"?) And since they can lay more than a thousand eggs per year, fighting the snails can be a decade-long, million-dollar hassle. It's one we've had to deal with before. National Geographic explains:
This species was first brought to the continental U.S. in 1966, when a boy smuggled three into Miami as pets. The boy's grandmother later released them into her garden. Just seven years later their population had exploded to 18,000, which cost the state of Florida more than $1 million dollars and took ten years to wipe out.
The species isn't just an issue in the US. Last year, a single giant land snail showed up in a shipping yard in Brisbane, where officials destroyed it immediately. The snails shipped in through LAX met a similar fate: after being checked out by a "federal mollusk specialist" the snails met a firey death at the hands of the US Department of Agriculture. There will likely be no consequences for the importer, says the AP.
Despite the stringent measures meant to keep America snail-free, the animals have been found in school classrooms as props for science lessons, and have been confiscated from breeders and pet stores. WikiHow has instructions on setting up an aquarium and caring for a giant African land snail--"relatively low maintenance and fascinating to watch"!
But if you do find yourself in the continental US in the company of a giant African land snail, the Michigan state government has a request for you:
PLEASE DO NOT RELEASE IT INTO THE ENVIRONMENT, SELL IT, OR GIVE IT AWAY.