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Customs officials nab giant — and invasive — snail from international luggage in Atlanta airport

Customs and Border Patrol K-9 beagle “MOX” alerted officers to a Giant African Snail in a passenger’s bag after arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The snail is considered an invasive species.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
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Customs and Border Patrol K-9 beagle “MOX” alerted officers to a Giant African Snail in a passenger’s bag after arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The snail is considered an invasive species.

K-9 teams at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport detected a Giant African Snail in passenger luggage this week. Customs and Border Protections agriculture specialists work with a team of beagles to identify pests or prohibited foods.

The U.S Department of Agriculture classifies the Giant African Snail as an invasive species. They cause extensive damage in tropical and sub-tropical environments like most of the Southern U.S. since the snail consumes over 400 types of plants.

CBP Supervisor Agriculture Specialist Arrisia Sims said the agency is focused on preventing the spread of diseases.

“With African snails, we have potential meningitis,” Sims said. “With monkey meat we have concerns of AIDS. It can be transmittable. So there are a different number of species where we not only work with USDA, we work with Fish and Wildlife, but we also work with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

Sims said unregulated food such as bush meat and cane rat or diseases like citrus cankers could infect and devastate local food production. Travelers caught with undeclared prohibited food or animals face hefty fines.

CPB agricultural specialists and K-9s are trained to work together to inspect international luggage and shipments that may contain invasive insects, federally banned plant species, and plant and animal diseases.

This story comes to WUGA through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.