Giant live millipedes seized at San Francisco airport

Twenty of the foot-long millipedes were discovered in a package in San Fransisco airport. Photo/Tabatha Kinder

By Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News, September 4, 2014

Talk about a suspicious package.

Customs agents seized 20 live giant millipedes hidden inside a box marked “toy car model” that arrived at the mail facility at San Francisco International Airport last week.

The box was shipped from Germany, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office said, and routed through an X ray machine. That’s when “agriculture specialists on duty were quick to notice the deception.”

Inside the package was a large plastic foam box and a large mesh bag “containing the foot-long millipedes, along with chunks of soil and paper,” the agency said. They were referred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for positive identification.

While it is not illegal to import exotic animals — including giant millipedes — the package “lacked required import permits and was misrepresented in an attempt to bypass federal regulations.” It has since been turned over to the USDA Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance office.

It’s the second strange animal shipment to be intercepted by customs officials in recent months.

In July, officials at Los Angeles International Airport seized 67 live African snails the size of hams.

The giant mollusks arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, in packages labeled “Achatina fulica for human consumption,” the U.S. Customs & Border Protection office said. But the snails were deemed “Archachatina marginata,” which the customs agency described as “a very serious threat to our agriculture, natural ecosystem, public health and economy.”

The snails were transferred to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

“They can consume more than 500 types of plants and, if vegetables or fruits are not available, will even eat the paint and stucco off of houses,” officials added. “They can be carriers of several parasites which are harmful to humans, one of which can lead to meningitis.”

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