Yes, Forcing an Anaconda to
Eat a Human on TV Is a Bad Idea
by Jason Koebler
Is it a good idea to go full Jonah and let yourself get swallowed by an anaconda? Well, it depends on who you ask.
On December 7th, wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie will “enter the belly of an anaconda in a custom-built snake-proof suit” for a Discovery Channel special called “Eaten Alive.” This fairly absurd development has, naturally, gotten a few people riled up.
Conservation scientists have dismissed the idea out of hand and suggested that it could be harmful for the public’s perception of the animals. Three I spoke to all used the same word that has probably come to your mind now: “Ridiculous.” And the world’s foremost expert on anacondas, Jesus Rivas, told me in an email that it has the potential to do serious harm to a population of animals that is already threatened by deforestation.
“The concern is that all that these shows do is to paint the snakes as the bad guys,” he added. “While anacondas might be able to eat a person, this has not been confirmed as a reality, to my knowledge (basically because snake and humans overlap very little). Presenting this kind of film only plays on fear and sows bad seeds for an endangered species of an endangered ecosystem.”
But, well, is it possible?
“It’s easy, it’s routine. It’s not a hard thing to plan. It’s a brilliant piece of marketing and he’ll become instantly famous,” Raymond Hoser, Australia’s self-professed Snake Man, told me. “I should have thought of it myself, I suppose.”
It’s worth noting here that Hoser is a very controversial figure in the herpetology world. He’s often been accused of doing junk science—classifying snakes that already exist, publishing his own journals, and that sort of thing. He’s also come under fire for allegedly allowing de-venomized snakes to bite his children to prove that they are no longer poisonous. So, well, take what he says with a grain of salt.
At the same time, he does have a lot of experience with snake handling and other stunts of this sort, and explained to me at length how, exactly, you’d make a snake swallow a human being. He said that anacondas can be “induced to eat anything,” and the snake-proof suit you see in the teaser is probably nothing more than a large, one piece rubber suit, similar to gaiters that fishermen use to avoid barbs and thorns and bites from fish and snakes and other small, bitey-things that they come into contact with.
“Gaiters move a bit but they’re very resistant and they’ve been tested with snakes. It’ll be a one piece suit and they’ll probably put him in feet first,” Hoser said. “They’ll let it get up to his shoulders or so and then induce the snake to regurgitate him.”
“I guess, if he puts an oxygen mask on and a tank, they might let him go all the way down,” he added.
A representative with the Discovery Channel told me that the company wasn’t ready to say yet just how much he would be swallowed, but said that neither Rosolie nor the snake are at any risk. In the teaser, Rosolie is shown wearing a mask but it’s hard to tell whether he has an oxygen tank.
Hoser said “there’s no danger to the snake,” but that to get it to regurgitate Rosolie, it’ll probably have to be “kicked in the stomach.”
“There’s no long term damage but it probably won’t be feeling fresh after it’s spewed him,” he said.
So, well, it seems that getting an anaconda to eat a human isn’t impossible. But is it morally acceptable? Is it something that we really want to do? Probably not.
“I heard of this years ago and dismissed it as just some producer trying too hard to get some easy ratings with a mediocre documentary idea,” Rivas told me. “The idea is definitely ridiculous. You probably know the expression ‘jumping the shark.’ Well, I believe that expression will be replaced by ‘feeding the person to the snake’ in the future.”
Some of Rivas’s colleagues agreed with him: Leslie Anthony, author of Snakebit: Confessions of a Herpetologist, told me the idea “sounds ridiculous,” and herpetologist Gordon Burghard said the exact same thing. PETA has unsurprisingly come out against the idea as well.
Rivas says that anacondas are already feared enough, and that shoving a human down the throat of one isn’t good, from a conservation perspective.
“The last thing that they need is more bad rap,” he said. “If anacondas could make the film they would present a movie about this scary two legged creature with insatiable appetite for cruelty that subject ‘their people’ to the most unspeakable abuses.”