The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Department on Saturday impounded the baggage of an American who had travelled from Ghana because he was carrying live snails which are regarded as contraband goods.
According to reports, the impoundment also affected other meat items including oxtail, dried beef, turkey berry and carrot which are prohibited in the US. Also included in the package was “Prekese”, a local spice.
The giant African snails had especially been resisted because they are said to be invasive, eat too much and are vectors of pathogens that are harmful to crops.
Marty C. Raybon, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s New York Field Office is reported as explaining that the giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because it consumes at least 500 types of plants.
They also cause extensive damage to tropical and sub-tropical environments. These “highly invasive Giant Ghana African Snails also pose a serious health risk to humans because it carries a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis”.
“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists are our nation’s frontline defenders against invasive plant and animal pests that threaten our agricultural resources, and they face this complex and challenging mission with extraordinary commitment and vigilance,” said Marty C. Raybon.
Even though the traveler from Ghana had been carrying only 26 of the snails in a bag, the US had in the past spent some US$1million to eradicate that particular type of snail and is not taking any chances.
The Giant Ghana African Snails was first found in southern Florida in the 1960s and it took 10 years and $1 million to eradicate it. It was reintroduced in Miami in September 2011, according to reports.
It feeds voraciously and is a vector for plant pathogens, causing severe damage to agricultural crops and native plants.
It competes with native snail taxa, is a nuisance pest of urban areas, and spreads human disease. This snail is listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world. The snails reproduce quickly, producing about 1,200 eggs in a single year.