Harmful stowaway snails found at Port of Oakland

Two living Giant African snails, one of world’s most damaging snails, were found earlier this month at the Port of Oakland, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Wednesday.

The live snails were among a pile of dead Giant African snail eggs found by agriculture specialists searching a wooden pallet shipment from American Samoa, customs officials said.

The snail eats at least 500 different types of plants, as well as paint, plaster and stucco. The snail also carries plant and human pathogens, which can cause diseases such as meningitis in humans, customs officials said.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Frank Falcon said:

“Once they get into the environment they’re hard to get rid of.”

An eradication of 18,000 snails in Florida that started in 1966 took 10 years and $1 million to complete, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

This is the second time in two months that specialists have found the snail in imports, according to customs officials.

Specialists found a snail in a commercial goods shipment from Asia in November, customs officials said.

In each case, specialists reloaded the shipments and safeguarded them until the shipments could be treated, according to customs officials.

The snails, which can grow to eight inches in length, were sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection station and were officially identified by the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory.