According to a report by the Associated Press, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized 67 Giant African Land Snails (GALS), which are prohibited in the U.S. The snails arrived on a flight from Nigeria earlier this month. After identifying the snails, the USDA incinerated them.
Originally from East Africa, the GALS (Achatina fulica) is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to 8 inches in length. Each snail can live as long as 9 years. GALS are difficult to eradicate because they have no natural predator and they reproduce exponentially, up to 1,200 more snails per year.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is warning Floridians in Miami and at other ports to be on the lookout for GALS. “Giant African Land Snails are a triple threat. Not only do they destroy plants and damage buildings, they are a risk to public health. We’re working hard to eradicate this invasive pest from South Florida, but it’s just as important to prevent any more from entering our borders. I appreciate the diligence demonstrated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in safeguarding our nation from threats such as these.”
GALS were detected in Florida in 2011. Scientists consider GALS to be one of the most destructive invasive species because they are known to consume at least 500 different types of plants. The snails cause structural damage to buildings; they consume plaster and stucco to acquire the calcium needed by the snails to grow their large shells. They also can carry a parasite that can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.
In the three years since the invasive pest was detected in Miami, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors have collected and destroyed more than 140,000 snails.