Giant African snails seized at Los Angeles airport

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Giant African snails seized at Los Angeles airport
THE MEDINA, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - 2013/01/04: Man serving snails in his food street stall in Djemaa el Fna square. (Photo by Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DJEMAA EL FNA SQUARE, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - 2013/01/04: People eating at a street stall serving snails. (Photo by Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DULLES, VA - JANUARY 13:Giant African snail shells that have been confiscated from a passenger in international customs at Dulles International Airport on January 13, 2012, in Dulles, VA. We take a look at some of the items confiscated by Customs and Border Protection officers as passengers come into the United States on international flights.(photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: Dr. Paul Skelley, Florida Department of Agriculture, looks for Giant African land snails as he works on eradicating a population of the invasive species in Miami-Dade County on September 15, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. The snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: A Giant African land snail is seen as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announces it has positively identified a population of the invasive species in Miami-Dade county on September 15, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. An effort to eradicate the snails is being launched. The snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Vendors wait for customers next to a snail stall on a market in Abidjan on December 13, 2010. Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Outtara both declared themselves president in the wake of last month's disputed election. Ouattara has been recognised by the international community, but Ivorian army chiefs remain loyal to Gbagbo.AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN FRENCH BY SOPHIE MONGALVY Giant snails, igbin in Yoruba, are diplayed for sale at a market in Lagos on November 21, 2009. Prepared as a soup or as a stew dish, the snails are considered a delicacy by many Nigerians. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN FRENCH BY SOPHIE MONGALVY Snail dealer Yemi Ahmed shows the varieties of giant snails, igbin in Yoruba, at market in Lagos on November 21, 2009. Prepared as a soup or as a stew dish, the snails are considered a delicacy by many Nigerians. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
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By KRYSTA FAURIA

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized an unusually slimy package - 67 live giant African snails that are a popular delicacy across West Africa.

The snails - which are prohibited in the U.S. - arrived from Nigeria and were being sent to a person in San Dimas, said Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border protection.

The snails were confiscated July 1 and a sample was sent the next day to a federal mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C., who identified them as a prohibited species, Harty said.

The mollusks are among the largest land snails in the world and can grow to be up to 8 inches long. They are native to Africa and can live for up to 10 years.

Giant African Land Snails Arrive At LAX

The U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated the snails after they were inspected, Harty said. The animals are prohibited in the U.S. because they can carry parasites that are harmful to humans, including one that can lead to meningitis.

The snails are also agricultural pests, said Maveeda Mirza, the CBP program manager for agriculture.

"These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to," Mirza said.

The person the snails were destined for is not expected to face any penalties, Mirza said. She said authorities are investigating why a single person would want so many snails.

"We're investigating what happened, but it doesn't seem like there was smuggling involved. When someone doesn't know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment," she said.

Although the agency has found one or two snails that may have accidentally gotten into a traveler's luggage in Los Angeles, this is the first time that they have confiscated the snails in such a large quantity, Mirza said.



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