400-legged stowaway bound for South Carolina sniffed out by border protection dog, customs says

This 2016 photo shows the the cañada, or canyon, in El Charco del Ingenio in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. (Miguel Viquez/El Charco del Ingenio AC via AP)

At the Academy of Natural Sciences, invertebrate specialist Karen Verderame holds a juvenile Giant African Millipede, only around one year old.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A “hitchhiker” who was traveling with a couple flying from Africa to South Carolina was caught during an inspection, according to an U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) news release.

The stowaway found inside of a suitcase is a “live giant African millipede,” CBP said in the news release.

The insect was discovered Dec. 18 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport when it was sniffed out by Regal, a member of the CBP Beagle Brigade, according to the news release.

The dog detected something was in a bag “at the international arrival baggage claim area,” as the South Carolina-bound travelers entered the United States after a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, CBP said in the news release.

After being alerted by Regal, CBP Agriculture Specialists secured the 6-inch millipede and were working to find it a home, possibly at “a local insectarium,” according to the news release.

The giant African millipede can grow to a foot long and has a life span of five to seven years, according to the San Diego Zoo’s website. The insect with “300 to 400 legs” was called a “gentle giant” with a weak jaw, so rather than bite a predator the millipede will “coil into a ball and secrete a foul fluid from its body’s pores” as an act of self defense, the zoo reported.

CBP reported the couple heading home to South Carolina did not know how the millipede got into their suitcase, but “was grateful to go home without the unwanted hitchhiker,” the news release said.

“Our beagle sniffing out this millipede highlights how valuable our canine members are to protecting the U.S.,” Atlanta CBP Area Port Director Carey Davis said in the news release.

This is not the only unusual discovery made by the Beagle Brigade in the past few months.

A roasted pig’s head was “seized and destroyed” by CBP in October after being sniffed out by Regal’s teammate, Hardy, McClatchy reported.

Customs agents said Atlanta’s airport is the busiest in the world, McClatchy reported.

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