Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

A Man, an Anaconda, and a Quest To Save the Earth

Posted on

Gowri Varanash/Discovery Channel

[DESKTOP_WEB_APP_EMBARGO {12052014} {130783} {12-4-2014} {We all have goals. Some of us want money; others seek love, fitness, or fame. Paul Rosolie wants something else. For the past two years, the environmentalist has chased a dream that quite possibly no other man in the history of the world has ever had: to be eaten by a giant green anaconda. Rosolie and a camera crew spent six weeks in the Amazon this summer looking for such a beast, and along the way encountered piranhas, electric eels, giant crocodiles, and more than a few other snakes. The resulting two-hour special, Eaten Alive, airs Dec. 7 and has made headlines around the world since being announced earlier this month. Rosolie, author of the widely praised eco-adventure book Mother of God, has been accused of being a snake-tormenting opportunist by animal activists. In an exclusive interview with EW, he explains why he did it, how he did it, and why he isn’t ”the Hitler of animals.”} {

We all have goals. Some of us want money; others seek love, fitness, or fame. Paul Rosolie wants something else. For the past two years, the environmentalist has chased a dream that quite possibly no other man in the history of the world has ever had: to be eaten by a giant green anaconda. Rosolie and a camera crew spent six weeks in the Amazon this summer looking for such a beast, and along the way encountered piranhas, electric eels, giant crocodiles, and more than a few other snakes. The resulting two-hour special, Eaten Alive, airs Dec. 7 and has made headlines around the world since being announced earlier this month. Rosolie, author of the widely praised eco-adventure book Mother of God, has been accused of being a snake-tormenting opportunist by animal activists. In an exclusive interview with EW, he explains why he did it, how he did it, and why he isn’t ”the Hitler of animals.”

Let’s start with why.

It all goes back to the loss of biodiversity—plants and animals. I’ve seen entire 1,000-mile stretches of rain forest burned to the ground where every single plant and animal is destroyed—and no one pays attention to that. I’ve seen scientists spend their entire lives trying to rally public opinion and support, and people just don’t care. People care about animals; they don’t make the jump to caring about the habitat the animals live in…. So I wanted to do something that would sort of shock people and force a dialogue about what’s going on here—and it’s working. People all over the world have been saying they hope I get Ebola, that I’m heinous and inhuman and horrible, that I’m ”the Hitler of animals.”

Somebody called you ”the Hitler of animals”?

The Hitler of animals. This is great, though, because each person is yet another supporter, they just haven’t seen the show yet…. [Two weeks ago] PETA had something like 25,000 signatures [protesting Discovery’s special] from people who care about a snake—which is awesome. But those people don’t realize this is one snake when millions of snakes and other animals are being incinerated right now. PETA got 25,000 signatures in seven days on Change.org. Yet the petition to protect the standing Amazon rain forest had—wait for it—159 signatures. It’s wonderful seeing all these people come out and support a snake, but that’s why I’m doing it.

Isn’t there another dream—possibly one that doesn’t involve being eaten—that would have been better to pursue?

No. There’s not. Only because my dream is to protect habitat. And in order to do that you have to get people’s attention. Nothing else that I could have done would have gotten more attention than this.

How large of an animal can an anaconda consume?

That’s another thing. Everybody keeps [saying] an anaconda can’t eat a human, that it’s physically impossible. I’ve seen an anaconda break a wild boar in half. I’ve seen an anaconda constrict a black caiman, which is a crocodile; they grow up to 15 feet. Once you collapse a human rib cage—they squeeze before they eat—we’re actually much smaller than some of the animals they’re eating. The cook who tours with us in the Amazon, his father was eaten by an anaconda. So it’s not a myth. When you’re in these small villages and your mom gets eaten by an anaconda, they’re not running to get a camera.

Tell me about the carbon-fiber snakeproof suit you wear.

Ah, the suit is incredible. Inside I’m completely sealed off. I’m able to breathe in there. I’m protected from the stomach acid of the anaconda, and it’s completely crushproof. We tested it to 90 pounds per square inch—which is previously what an anaconda has been recorded having constricted.

I hear you endured a lot of constriction.

The snake did not want to eat me, at first. But once I showed myself as a predator and she got spooked, then she defended herself. She nailed me right in the face, and the last thing I saw was her mouth wide open before everything went black. And then she wrapped me, and I felt the suit cracking and my arms ripping out of their sockets. It was absolutely terrifying.

How long did that go on?

It was over an hour. Once they have you, they do not let go.

What are the respective merits of headfirst versus feetfirst?

Snakes swallow stuff headfirst. That’s how they do it. It’s not up to me at all. If you think of a deer—anacondas eat deer all the time. A deer’s head and neck are very narrow, and then [the body gets wider]. An anaconda slips over that very nicely.

How far did you get inside the snake?

I am not allowed to say anything. This is the story of an attempt. When [Discovery] said, ”Nik Wallenda is going to cross the Chicago skyline,” they didn’t promise he was going to make it. The show is called Eaten Alive, and that’s what we worked as hard as we could to do.

Personally, once my head was beyond a snake’s mouth, I’d feel ”eaten.”

Yeah, that was everybody’s benchmark: If your head goes in, that’s a major success. Some were like, ”You gotta let it go to your ankles!” I didn’t want to rip my whole body out of the snake. The plan was once she got to my waist, they’d pull me back out—partly for my safety, partly for the snake’s.

What happened to this particular snake?

Alive and well. Trust me, I’m much worse off. She beat the s— out of me. I’m still recovering months later.

Finally: If you could listen to Nicki Minaj’s song ”Anaconda” or watch Jennifer Lopez’s movie Anaconda, which would you choose?

I’d rather be eaten by an anaconda than do either of those.

}]

Comments