US naturalist battles with snake for TV, but not eaten alive as promised

US naturalist battles with snake for TV, but not eaten alive as promised

NEW YORK - When naturalist Paul Rosolie wanted to focus attention on the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, he decided he needed a stunt guaranteed to get people looking.

So the staunch environmentalist offered himself as dinner to an anaconda - and was prepared to be swallowed alive, filming every moment.

But in the end, Rosolie wasn't exactly ingested by the snake, disappointing viewers who expected a journey into the belly of the deadly beast.

Instead he let the anaconda coil around him before calling the mission off, fearing he might get seriously injured.

Anacondas, the largest snakes in the world, typically suffocate their prey before ingesting it, making Rosolie's attempt all the more dangerous.

Rosolie survived, and now people all around the world have a chance to watch his harrowing struggle with the beast, after its debut broadcast Sunday night in the United States on the Discovery Channel.

The idea came to him after a decade spent working in, and working to save, the rainforest habitat, Rosolie told AFP.

"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 realise this is such a problem." The American activist said he was proud to take on the adventure, even though the prospect of dying was hard to swallow.

'I need help'

To avoid suffocating, experts crafted Rosolie a specially designed carbon fiber suit, equipped with a breathing system - as well as with cameras and a system to communicate.

"We didn't know if this was going to work, if I was going to be eaten, but we made sure that if I did make it inside the snake, I wouldn't suffocate," Rosolie explained after the ordeal.

The next challenge was trying to find a snake in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.

"We spent 60 days out in the jungle, camping, hiking, looking through swamps every night," Rosolie said.

Eventually, they found a female snake, which at, six meters (20 feet) long, fit the bill.

"When I went up to the snake, it didn't try to eat me right away," Rosolie recounted.

"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." In the end, Rosolie wasn't swallowed whole by the giant serpent, but instead wrestled with the beast as she coiled around him before he aborted the mission.

As the snake wrapped around a suited-up Rosolie - at one point opening its wide jaws on his helmet - the daredevil said she was squeezing his arm tight, which he feared might break.

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