Is that a snail in your pants? Man caught smuggling invasive African Snails into NYC


JAMAICA, N.Y. – They may be slow, but the highly invasive, slimy critters that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists caught at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday can quickly damage vital crops and structures.

CBP agriculture specialists discovered 22 Giant African Snails during a baggage examination of a U.S. man who arrived on a flight from Ghana. Additionally, CBP agriculture specialists discovered about 24 pounds collectively of prohibited ox tail, dried beef, turkey berry, carrot, medicinal leaves and prekese, a traditional African spice and medicinal plant product.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Giant African Snail (GAS) is one of the most damaging snails in the world because it consumes at least 500 types of plants. It threatens U.S. agricultural resources and causes extensive damage to tropical and sub-tropical environments. It also causes structural damage to plaster and stucco structures. GAS reproduce quickly, producing about 1,200 eggs in a single year.

The highly invasive Giant African Snail also poses a serious health risk to humans because it carries a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis.

“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,” said Marty C. Raybon, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s New York Field Office.

According to the USDA, the Giant African Snail (Lissachatina fulica) was first found in southern Florida in the 1960s, and it took 10 years and $1 million to eradicate it. It was reintroduced in Miami in September 2011. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is conducting a regulatory program to eradicate this invasive species.

Oftentimes, travelers learn during their CBP arrivals inspection that something they purchased or collected overseas is prohibited from entering the United States. Travelers can visit CBP’s Know Before You Go webpage before they travel overseas to learn which products are prohibited or restricted from the United States.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. They examine international trade shipments and traveler baggage every day in the search for invasive insects, federal noxious weeds, and plant and animal diseases that could have a serious impact on our national agricultural resources.

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