Giant, ‘Highly Invasive’ Snails Discovered in Man’s Luggage at JFK Airport, Pose ‘Serious Health Risk’

by Josh Lanier

Customs agents at JFK airport said they caught a man trying to sneak in nearly two dozen giant African snails that could cause serious problems for humans and vegetation.

The man arrived on a flight from Ghana with 22 snails and several other items of contraband, NBC New York reported. Authorities also found 24 pounds of oxtail, dried beef, turkey berry, medicinal leaves, and plant products in his luggage.

However, the Department of Agriculture says the snails are of particular concern. Officials say the invasive species eats nearly 500 types of plants, which can devastate an ecosystem. According to the USDA, in 1966, a boy smuggled three giant African snails into Miami. His grandmother released them into her garden. Within 7 years, they had multiplied to more than 18,000 snails. It took a decade to get rid of them at the cost of $1 million.

They also can make people very sick.

“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 agents said in a news release.

Man Hides 24 Birds in Hair Rollers in His Luggage

Elsewhere in the world of wildlife contraband smuggling, a 26-year-old man on a flight from Guyana stuffed 24 finches into hair rollers in his luggage in an attempt to smuggle the tiny birds into the United States last week, authorities told NBC New York.

The man was fined $300 and sent back to Guyana.

The birds were freed but quarantined and turned over to the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services.

Bringing animals such as birds into the country illegally poses a major threat. In 2015, an avian flu outbreak led to the death of 50 million commercial turkeys because someone smuggled in a sick bird. Poultry farmers had to euthanize many animals to stop the spread of the virus, NBC News said.

It cost the poultry industry more than $1 billion, the USDA said.