U. S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture specialists discovered two live Giant African Snails - considered one of the most dangerous snails in the world - at the Port of Oakland in early December while examining a cargo shipment of wooden pallets from American Samoa.
A a pile of dead snail eggs was also found, according to spokesman Frank Falcon.
The specimens ware collected and forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Inspection Station, and digital images were sent to the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory, where scientists determined they were Lissachatina fulica, commonly known as the Giant African Snail. Scientists consider this mollusk one of the most damaging snails in the world.
“Giant African Snails are a serious agriculture and human health threat," Brian J. Humphrey, director of field operations in San Francisco said in a statement. "Since they consume such a wide variety plants and can carry diseases.”
Customs agents said this is the second interception of this pest at the Port of Oakland in the last two months.
In November, agents discovered a Giant African Snail in a shipping container of commercial goods from Asia.
According to the USDA, Giant African Snails can grow up to eight inches long, can consume at least 500 different of types of plants, and can cause structural damage by eating paint, plaster, and stucco in houses. They are also carriers of various plant and human pathogens including a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans.
In both instances, agents reloaded and "safeguarded" the shipment, returning the snails to the USDA. Falcon said he doesn't know what happens to them after that.