December 1, 2014

#Anaconda man speaks: Why I let the snake swallow me - @NatGeo

In his nearly 10 years studying anacondas in the Amazon, researcher and conservationist Paul Rosolie, 27, has faced his share of danger. The giant reptile is known to grow up to 30 feet in length — and strikes its prey using its teeth and powerful jaws before crushing it with its massive body.

Rosolie has been bit by one of the snakes and seized by one in a chokehold — suffering from a broken rib and a nearly popped collarbone before five people were able to pry it off him.

But none of that compares to what he endured in his first TV special, “Eaten Alive,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Discovery Channel and documents Rosolie’s attempt to get ingested by a giant green anaconda — all in the name of bringing attention to the rapid destruction of the Amazon and, of course, spiking TV ratings.

“I wanted to do something that would absolutely shock people,” says Rosolie, who is tall, dark-haired, bearded and well-spoken when it comes to his passion for the rain forest. “Environmentalists, we love to preach to the choir. What I’m trying to do with this is bring in a bunch of people that wouldn’t necessarily know what’s going on in the Amazon.

“For the type of attention that this is getting and for the type of emergency that’s going on down there — desperate times, desperate measures.”

News of the stunt swiftly went viral: A Google search for “Paul Rosolie Eaten Alive” turns up more than 250,000 results. The project has also spurred much backlash from animal-rights activists — Rosolie has even received death threats — but he believes those fears will be quelled once the special airs. (Discovery has said that the snake is alive and healthy.)

“Once they see the show, these are people who are going to be supporters,” he says. “It’s a cool little dissonance there — they’re all coming out against me, but I’m the guy that’s been down there in the jungle trying to protect these things.”

A native of Wyckoff, NJ, Rosolie grew up fascinated by wildlife but hated sitting in classrooms, so at 16 he dropped out of high school in favor of saving up money to visit the Amazon. He got his GED, started studying environmental science at Ramapo College in New Jersey and, at 18, landed a research position in the Madre de Dios region of Peru.

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