The Associated Press reported Monday that 67 Giant African Land Snails, also known as GALS, were confiscated and eventually incinerated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These slimy crawling monsters were flown into the Los Angeles International Airport aboard a Nigerian flight in early July. Prohibited in the US, the snails are one of the largest land snails in the world and can grow up to 8 inches long. One main concern among authorities is that the GALS are known to eat around 500 different kinds of plants.
They also eat plaster-type products which gives them the necessary calcium to continue the growth of their shells. In addition to their voracious and varied appetite, they are known to carry parasites that can potentially result in human and animal forms of meningitis.
Not only do the African snails consume several varieties of plants, damage plaster and stucco used in homes, and carry a deadly disease, they currently have no known natural predator. How could they be any worse? Well, they reproduce at an alarming rate, up to 1200 snails each year.
Since this intruding menace was discovered in Miami, Florida three years ago, over 140,000 of them have been found and exterminated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Through luck and relentless effort, none of the giant snails have been spotted anywhere but inside Miami-Dade County.
Thanks to the diligence of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at LAX airport, California seems to have dodged a bullet by discovering these stowaways. Florida continued its own protection from the snails by having Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture issue a warning to Miami and other Floridian ports to keep an eye out for these potentially catastrophic snails.