Shock As 6 Giant African Land Snails Found In Suitcase At Detroit Airport

A smuggling attempt was foiled at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) when customs officers discovered six live giant African land snails stashed in a suitcase earlier this month. The snails were subsequently seized due to the major threat they pose to the environment and public health.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport was the location of a recent live animal smuggling attempt. © ajay_suresh

A Major Ecological and Health Threat

On the 9th of March, during a routine baggage inspection, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists discovered six live giant African land snails inside the suitcase of a passenger arriving from Ghana in West Africa. The snails in question are considered an invasive species in the United States, and it is illegal to import them into the country due to the major threat they pose to ecosystems and human health.

A statement released by the CBP revealed that the snails were intended for direct consumption, and owing to the major risk posed by the species, they were immediately seized by officials and will now be subject to further analysis. The individual involved in the smuggling attempt was released without further action.

Giant African Land Snail
cCstoms officers discovered a suitcase containing six live giant African land snails. © U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Giant African Land Snails – An Invasive And Deadly Pest

The giant African land snail (Lissachatina fulica) is a snail species native to East Africa. They are known to reproduce rapidly, and full-grown adults can reach up to eight inches in length.

The species decimates crop yields, can damage buildings and is a vector for numerous parasites deadly to humans. The species target over 500 different types of plants and can damage construction materials such as stucco and concrete.

Regarding the threat they pose to human health, the snails carry, among others, the parasitic nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis which can cause the deadly disease meningitis. Infection can be caused by eating raw or undercooked snails and even through merely handling the snails. Despite the threat posed by the species to ecosystems, structures and human health, giant African land snails are considered a delicacy in some parts of Asia and are even kept as pets in some countries.

Glass Eels
Endangered glass eels were the target of smugglers in a recent incident at Brussels Airport. © Uwe Kils

Suitcase Smuggling Attempts

The latest airport smuggling attempt follows a month on from an incident at Brussels Airport (BRU), Belgium, in which six people were arrested for attempting to smuggle critically endangered glass eels from the country to Malaysia. Customs officers discovered the eels concealed inside 18 suitcases, and six Malaysian nationals were subsequently arrested for their involvement in the incident.

What are your thoughts on the discovery at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport? Let us know in the comments.

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Rachel Dunster
Rachel Dunster
Aviation Reporter