Whilst trying to raise awareness about the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, naturalist Paul Rosolie filmed a documentary that had left more than a few shaking their heads in disbelief. So how did he prove his point? He let himself get swallowed alive by an anaconda.
For many weeks, the Discovery Channel has been focusing on promoting their new shocking documentary ‘Eaten alive’. From interviews to exciting clips, everything was done to get the public talking about the show and it worked, until it created controversy which was obvious was going to happen when someone films a man attempting to get himself eaten alive by an anaconda.
The idea came from Paul Rosolie, naturalist and herpetologist, after asking himself what he could do to raise awareness about the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest.
'Everybody on Earth knows that the rainforests are disappearing and most people can tell you how important they are, but still, not enough people are paying attention, not enough people realize this is such a problem,' explained Rosolie to the Telegraph.
To convince the public to pay attention, he had to think of something that would make them. This thinking led him to a completely absurd challenge: letting himself be attacked by an anaconda, one of the biggest snakes in the world.
A controversial idea
Even though his end goal was admirable and noble, the specialist quickly caught the attention of numerous crowds of people and associations for animal protection, including PETA who commented on his challenge saying that even though his heart was in the right place, the snake was 'tormented for the sake of ratings' and a publicity stunt.
'Anacondas go days without eating and expend the energy needed to do so selectively.'
'Making this snake use up energy by swallowing this fool and then possibly regurgitating him would have left the poor animal exhausted and deprived of the energy that he or she needs,' claimed PETA in a press release. Because of these controversial opinions, he had to wait until 7th December for the Discovery Channel to come to their decision about broadcasting this high-profile documentary.
As many expected, the show did not keep the promise that had been made weeks before: Rosolie was not really swallowed alive by an anaconda. What a way to deceive the public who were looking forward to seeing the inside of a giant snake! It didn’t take long for the verdict to come out: '"Eaten Alive" shoulda been named "I wanted to get eaten alive, but just got a big hug and didn't even get partially in"' one disappointed viewer tweeted soon after the broadcast.
'Eaten Alive' or not
In fact, Paul Rosolie didn’t succeed in his mission and his team had to intervene when the anaconda began to squeeze. In order to stop the constricting snake from suffocating him, the naturalist and his team had designed a type of armour made from carbon fibres and equipped with its own respiratory system. With this combination of his team and the special suit, the man approached a female anaconda measuring 6 metres long that they found in the forest.
'When I went up to the snake, it didn’t try to eat me right away,' recounted the herpetologist. 'It tried to escape. And when I provoked it a little bit, and acted a little more like a predator, that’s when it turned around and defended itself.'
But what happened next did not happen as he had expected, nor as he had suggested. Rosolie had clearly underestimated the snake’s strength.
The snake started to coil itself around Rosolie and tighten.
'I felt her jaw on my helmet and I could hear a gurgling and wheezing,' he explained. He also felt her strength and felt her squeezing around his arm which made it impossible for him to move.
'She got my arm in a position where her force was fully on my exposed arm. I started to feel the blood drain out of my hand and I felt the bone flex, and when I got to the point where I felt like it was going to snap I had to tap out.'
Panic-stricken, after an hour confronted with this reptile, the 30-year old naturalist called out for help.
'Guys my face is down. I’m calling it! I need help!' we heard him say during the documentary. The team was quick to intervene to get the snake to release her grip around Rosolie, who was exhausted by his fight against the giant.
Released into the wild
After the show, Rosolie insisted on making sure the team did not harm the snake and that he was to be the only one in danger during the whole operation.
'We didn’t force the snake to do anything, we didn’t ask from the snake anything out of the ordinary,' he assured The Telegraph.
'Snakes very often regurgitate if they’re eating something and a predator comes by, they have to give up their meal so they can escape,' he explained before the broadcast. By the time the operation had finished, the snake had not been harmed and had been released back into the wild, after being examined by a vet. Rosolie himself did not suffer from serious injuries. However, this was far from being a happy ending.
Whilst the Discovery Channel show was apparently associated with fundraising used to protect the Amazon, we’re not sure that it was a really successful way to raise the awareness that the expert had hoped for. Between the disappointment and the public outrage about the treatment of the animal, the documentary didn’t convince a lot of people and the channel's public image seems to have taken a hit.
Nevertheless, Rosolie doesn’t regret his terrifying experience and isn’t taking criticism to heart.
'What have you done to protect the rainforest and its endangered species?' he asked when interviewed by Discovery News.
'Respect that desperate times call for desperate measures,' he said.