Stinky, Crunchy, Paint-Eating Hermaphrodites

The USDA stopped the importation of giant African snails to Florida, but there were a couple left behind...

Stubbs could not be reached for comment in Africa, but he is due to appear June 8 in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom. In April a federal grand jury indicted him and partner Richard P. "Ricky" Duffield, Jr., with smuggling 47 endangered baby crocodiles from Nigeria to Ohio last August. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent at Kennedy airport discovered the crocodiles concealed beneath false bottoms in two crates of land crabs contained in a larger, 50-carton shipment of tropical fish.

According to a federal law enforcement source in South Florida, Duffield and the 50-year-old Stubbs recently rented a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Dade County and plan to shift their operations to Miami. Another source says Stubbs and Duffield have developed a new transportation scheme that calls for shipping exotic reptiles out of Nigeria to Miami by way of Brazil.

"This snail thing is a real labyrinth, more so than most of the problems we deal with," notes McCorkle, the USDA spokeswoman. "We are learning more and more as we look into the seedy world of snail trading. For instance, there are these pet swap meets we didn't know about. We found one guy in Chicago who swapped ten snails for a boa constrictor. If you show up on Saturday morning in the right place, you'll see people trading cats and dogs and all sorts of things. But that's another story."

Inspectors believe they will ultimately find all but a very few of the alien snails. And then they will have to hope that those few are not released into the wild. Meanwhile, Miami tropical fish importer Baumer says he's sick of being hounded by federal officials, and singularly unimpressed with the banana rasp snail. "Government people came here four different times, and they all seemed not to know each other," he says. "What's the big deal? These aren't giant snails. I used to get giant apple snails from the Amazon River in Peru, and breed them in my tanks here in Miami. Now, those were snails!

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