Biosecurity officials have stopped a giant snail and its offspring from sliming a path of destruction through New Zealand’s crop and forestry industries.
Ministry for Primary Industries staff recently intercepted the Giant African Snail at Auckland airport when it was declared by a couple returning from Madagascar.
“At nearly 15cm long, it was the largest Giant African Snail many of our staff had ever seen,” says Craig Hughes, MPI’s Northern Border Clearance Manager, Passengers and Mail.
“When our inspector tapped the shell, a number of eggs fell out. We could have had a whole family take residence in Auckland if there hadn’t been border controls in place.”
He says the Giant African Snail species is a voracious feeder that has caused immense damage to forestry and crops in countries where it has established.
It is also know to carry meningitis and can eat the paint and stucco off houses.
Hughes says the couple had collected the snail from a forest. “The good thing is they declared the snail on their arrival card, thereby alerting our inspector of the biosecurity risk.”
He says passengers commonly declare Giant African Snails as sea shells.
“They don’t realise that the snail will often hibernate unseen at the tip of the shell and only emerge when conditions are favourable.”
Photo available on request.
NB. This biosecurity interception was made by the Ministry for Primary Industries, not NZ Customs.