Giant African land snail intercepted at Louisville Port of Entry

U.S. Customs and Border Protection found two Giant African land snail at the Louisville Port of Entry on May 18, 2023. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Giant African land snails are considered one of the most destructive snails in the world, but that does not stop people from trying to import the creature into the United States illegally.

Two giant African snails were found by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Louisville Port of Entry on May 18. Officials say the live snails were discovered at an express consignment facility during an inspection of a parcel arriving from Germany.

"Our nation's food supply is constantly at risk from pests and diseases not known to occur in the United States. These significant interceptions by our CBP agriculture specialists at the Louisville Port of Entry exemplify CBP's continued commitment to safeguarding American agriculture," said LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations-Chicago Field Office.



Why do people import the Giant African land snails?

While some people do keep the Giant African land snails as pets, it is considered part of the diet and delicacy in West African countries.

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  (Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The snails are raised to be sliced, canned, freeze-dried, and sold as escargot.

Two species of the snail are recognized in France as cuisine and all species can be eaten in England.

However, if they are not cooked well, they may still have pesticides and nematode, which can lead to meningitis in humans.

"CBP’s agriculture specialists mitigate the threat of non-native pests, diseases, and contaminants entering the United States," said Thomas Mahn, Port Director, Louisville.  "CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspections, inspecting tens of thousands of international passengers and cargo shipments at our air, land and seaports of entry."

What are the negative impacts of the Giant African land snails?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Giant African land snails are a threat to plants, homes, and people's health.


Gian African Snails found in a suitcase arriving at Detroit Metro Airport. Image: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

It consumes at least 500 types of plants, causes structural damage to plaster and stucco structures. 

Each snail has both female and male reproductive organs, so they can reproduce rapidly. It is able to reproduce several more times after mating once. 

They can have about 1,200 eggs every year. They are also one of the world's largest land snails.

Current quarantine areas associated with the Giant African land snails

A Florida master gardener found an almost 8-inch-long snail in the New Port Richey area in June 2022.

The Giant African land snail was first discovered in southern Florida in the 1960s. It took officials ten years and a total of $1 million to eradicate it, according to the USDA. The species made a return in 2011 and eradication efforts took another ten years.

The snails remain a threat in Hawaii and the Caribbean after their eradication in Florida in 2021.

After the most recent Giant African land snail discovery in Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Plant Industry began a survey of the area, enacted a quarantine, and began treatment for the pest.

Other recent times officials caught the Giant African land snails entering the U.S.


Gian African Snails found in a suitcase arriving at Detroit Metro Airport. Image: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs and Border Protection found six live Giant African Snails inside a suitcase as a traveler arrived at the Detroit Metro Airport recently back in March.

In November 2022, the Atlanta airport’s so-called "Beagle Brigade" found a stash of prohibited items coming in from overseas including the massive invasive snail.


K9 Mox, who is part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection so-call "Beagle Brigade" at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sniffed out this live Giant African Snail on Nov. 8, 2022. (Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The Customs and Border Protection’s K9 unit at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport caught the scent coming from luggage coming in from Nigeria on Nov. 8, 2022. Inside the suitcase, federal inspectors say a live Giant African Snail was found along with prohibited goat meat, cow skins, melon seeds, and vegetables. 

International travelers are asked to consulate the CBP’s Know Before You Go website and to always declare any foods when passing through the border.

What is the Beagle Brigade?


K9 Mox

K9 Mox is being credited with finding the Giant African Snail.

"Mox is one of the handful of beagles on duty at Atlanta and airports across the country," said Brisley. "But the beagle itself, just a wonderful dog, all they want to do is find food."

Many of the dogs in the CBP’s Beagle Brigade are rescues coming from Georgia animal shelters. Some even being rehabilitated after years of abuse.


(FOX 5)

The dogs are trained at the National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan. Mostly beagles, labs and Jack Russell Terriers are trained for the work. The dogs then are deployed to U.S. international airports and on the border at crossings as well as mail and cargo facilities.

The dogs are tasked with looking for mostly apples, citrus, mango, beef, and pork on the prohibited list. One such bust was in 2018 in Atlanta when the Beagle Brigade stopped a traveler from Ecuador carrying a fully-cooked pig.


(Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The U.S. prevents any pork and pork products from other continents in order to prevent the introduction of diseases like foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever.

Some of the dogs are trained to detect snakes and then are sent to Hawaii to keep the islands snake-free.

The public can also adopt dogs that don’t make it the program.

This story is being reported out of Atlanta. FOX 13 and FOX 2 Detroit contributed to this report