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 swallowed alive, filming every moment.
Anacondas, the largest snakes in the world, typically suffocate their prey before ingesting it, making Rosolie’s attempt all the more dangerous.
But Rosolie survived, and now people all around the world will have a chance to watch his harrowing journey into the stomach of the beast, starting Sunday night when the video airs 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 realize 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.
An hour inside
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.”
The explorer was swallowed head first and spent more than an hour inside the giant snake, he said, adding that he kept in touch with his team the whole time.
He said he was scared that something would go wrong, but at the same time, “I was very excited to do it.”
“You are going up against one of the greatest predators of the planet and doing something that no one has ever done before,” he said.
Anaconda doing well
He did not give details on how he was freed from the snake, but he insisted his team was careful not to harm it and that he was the only one in danger.
“We didn’t force the snake to do anything, we didn’t ask from the snake anything out of the ordinary,” Rosolie said, explaining that “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.”
The anaconda is now doing well, he said.
But Rosolie has faced fierce criticism from animal rights groups, including from PETA, who said “the snake was tormented and suffered for the sake of ratings.”
Rosolie said he even received death threats.
But he wasn’t fazed, saying the shock value is important to increase attention to his cause.
A fund linked to the show was set up to raise awareness and money to protect the Amazon and could also allow for more research of anacondas in their habitat.
After the US showing, “Eaten Alive” will air on December 10 in Finland, Denmark, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, and two days later in Australia, before being broadcast in other countries, including China and India.
Discovery said it expect at least three million viewers in the United States and a million others around the world.