Agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport were in for a slimy surprise earlier this week.
On Sunday, 22 Giant African Snails — a highly invasive species — were discovered in a man’s bag at JFK by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agricultural specialists, according to a press release from the agency.
The man — who was traveling back home to the U.S. from Ghana — was also found with about 24 pounds of prohibited items including ox tail, dried beef, turkey berry, carrot, medicinal leaves and the traditional African spice known as prekese, according to the release.
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However, Giant African Snails don’t only put U.S. agriculture and structures at risk. The snails also pose a health risk to humans because they carry “a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis,” the release said.
The snails also reproduce quickly, producing up to about 1,200 eggs a year, the CBP said.
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According to the release, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are working together to eradicate Giant African Snails from Florida, which were reintroduced in the state in 2011 after being previously eradicated in the 1970s.
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In the release, CBP advised travelers to make sure they check the agency’s website for prohibited or restricted items from the U.S. before buying them while abroad.
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“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,” Marty Raybon, CBP’s acting director of field operations in the New York Field Office, said in a statement.
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