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Trail of slime leads German customs to bags of giant snails

The snails weren't the only unexpected thing found at the airport.
Credit: phototrip.cz - stock.adobe.com
Stock image of a giant African land snail.

BERLIN, Germany — German customs officials say a trail of slime led them to a stash of almost 100 giant African land snails and other items hidden inside bags at Duesseldorf Airport this month.

In a statement Friday, authorities said officials stumbled over one of the snails on a baggage truck and initially thought it was a toy until it started moving. By following the trail left by the 8-inch snail, they found a bag with a hole, with another snail already peeping out of it — possibly preparing a dash for freedom.

In total, officials found six bags containing 93 giant snails, 62 pounds of fish and smoked meat, and a suitcase full of rotting meat. All had been imported from Nigeria and were destined for an African goods store in western Germany.

The snails were handed to an animal rescue service in Duesseldorf and the meat was destroyed, customs officials said.

“Never in the history of the Duesseldorf customs office has a trail of slime led us to smuggled goods,” said its spokesman Michael Walk.

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Giant African snails, growing up to 8 inches long and five inches wide, are known in various warm areas as an invasive species. Thousands of miles from Duesseldorf, the Florida Department of Agriculture describes them as "one of the most damaging snails in the world," consuming "at least 500 different types of plants." 

The snails, subject to multiple eradication efforts in Florida over the years, are known to destroy plants, eat stucco off homes, and carry diseases. They were spotted in the state again this summer.

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