Since June, the Agricultural Department has seized over 1,200 giant African land snails from New York and Georgia after receiving a tip from social media, according to the Associated Press.
Giant African snails have no natural predator in the United States, and they routinely destroy buildings and crops, in addition to causing meningitis in humans because of the parasites they carry.
In the most recent example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified a person in possession of 200 snails through social media. After the USDA seized the snails in Long Island, New York, the person directed the USDA down to Georgia, at which point the Agriculture Department seized an additional 1,000. The Department is not releasing the details of the individuals involved, but did say that the investigation is still ongoing after a couple more snails were rounded up in Indiana and Pennsylvania
Already, Florida has had to deal with the giant snail problem for three years since 2011 after being discovered in Miami, where authorities have so far rooted out over 141,000. The snails are difficult to eradicate, often reproducing enough for 1,200 new offspring every year. And they spread quickly. They were found in 26 distinct areas in the Miami-Dade County, which makes the current case that much more important to get a handle on.
The snails are used by their buyers for a variety of purposes. Some use them in cosmetics or in religious practices, and still others count them as a delicacy. But if the snails get too close to the farm industry, the results are especially disastrous, as the snails can eat around 500 different types of plants. Currently, it is still legal to import giant frozen snails for consumption, but live ones remain illegal.
“The more people who know about giant African snails and know that they are illegal in the United States, the better we are in keeping them out,” said Wendolyn Beltz, a director in the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “If they didn’t know and they are reaching out to us to do the right thing, there will be absolutely no penalties for that.”
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