A documentary filmmaker has stirred controversy after announcing his intention to encase himself in a “snake proof suit” and be eaten alive by an anaconda, before forcing the snake to release him. So far, little detail is available. The possibility of a hoax can't be ruled out, but the event is already arousing debate about how far filmmakers can go to get their story.
Paul Rosolie describes himself as, “a naturalist based out of southern Peru.” His film An Unseen World, (clip below) won the United Nations Forum on Forests short film contest for 2013.
Filmmaking in the Amazon is certainly dangerous, and Rosolie has reported his encounters with jaguars, anacondas and tropical diseases in the book Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon. The title is a translation of Madre de Dios, the name given to the threatened wilderness in which Rosolie works.
However, in a world filled with extraordinary filmmaking, it can be hard to stand out. Animal Planet has already run a story on a filmmaker having a terrifying encounter with an anaconda. To really get attention, Rosolie has announced that he plans to become a modern day Jonah – being swallowed by an anaconda and escaping alive.
The Discovery Channel's website announces that the video will be shown on December 7, but contains no further details. Rosolie's twitter account has links to clips purporting to be trailers, but they are private, and it is not possible to tell if they are snippets of him actually being eaten, or just showing preparatory activities.
In March, Rosolie told Mongabay his activities are part of a quest to draw attention to the threats faced by Madre de Dios.
“Up until a few years ago the Las Piedras River was so long and isolated that much of its forest and wildlife and people were safe,” Rosolie said. “But recently the Trans-Amazon highway was paved and completed, which caused a number of offshoot roads to cut into what had previously been ancient, untouched forest.”
Snakes sometimes eat prey alive, (as we have shown before) and there have been cases of swallowed animals escaping alive. Nevertheless, the experience would be damaging for the snake. Reptile care websites stress the negative effects. “Regurgitation and vomiting usually go hand in hand when it comes to keeping snakes, and hopefully, it can be avoided at all costs,” Herp Center Network warns, before explaining that regurgitation involves undigested food expelled from the esophagus, rather than the stomach. This is not an easy process for the snake since the bodily fluids anacondas use to swallow and regurgitate their prey are not easily replaced. Therefore, even if nothing goes wrong, it may still be necessary to cut Rosolie out of the snake.
Whether or not the plan is real, the claim has raised the question: Can the attention the video will generate justify the damage and likely pain to the animal involved?