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 20-centimeter (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, 28 kilograms (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.
The Florida Department of Agriculture called the giant African land snail “one of the most damaging mollusk subtypes in the world” after the species resurfaced in the state this summer. At 4 months old, a single land snail can lay thousands of eggs at a time.
Florida officials enacted a quarantine in Pasco County in July after over 1,000 giant land snails were spotted in the area. Officials have been using specially trained dogs to sniff out the species, but it can take years to eradicate the species completely, according to a department press release.