Say what? Let me rewind that promo trailer I just saw (which millions of others also saw during Nick Wallenda’s Chicago skyline walk) in which a man gets eaten by a snake in Discovery Channel’s new Eaten Alive airing on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 9pm ET/PT.
How is that possible?
The idea of a human willing to be consumed by a 20-foot-plus anaconda in an attempt to gain more knowledge on the majestic creatures sounds downright crazy. I mean, couldn’t we just study them from afar? When you talk with Discovery’s executive producer Mike Sorensen, who is behind the two-hour special Eaten Alive, you appreciate how utterly fascinating this expedition/experiment truly is — despite its sensational headline.
“I think everybody has this kind of inborn fear of snakes — or at least I do. But I think when you watch this, you start to see how incredibly majestic and powerful these creatures are,” Sorensen says. “There’s an appreciation I walked away with for anacondas — they are right up there with the apex predators of the world. They are as cool and as incredible as great whites.”
Totally agree. Let’s rally for Anaconda Week 2015. Who’s in?
The idea of exploring anacondas inside and out was the brainchild of naturalist/author Paul Rosolie. He’s the man suiting up and covering himself in pig’s blood hoping to be a delicious delicacy for some anaconda in Peru’s floating forest. Rosolie’s protective suit was manufactured by a team of engineers and herpetologists (see more below) who designed it to protect both him and the snake.
“I’m sure your reaction and other people’s reactions are: ‘Wow! That idea is really out there,’” Sorensen says. (Ah yeah, that would be correct. There’s also a slew of animal rights activists sounding off on Rosolie’s website.) “But when you sit with Paul and you speak with him and you hear about his intentions and his mission, you really get sucked into what’s really important and great about the show.”
The show is about Rosolie’s journey into Peru’s floating forest and his quest to find this enormous snake (he’s had previous run-ins with this thing) and chronicle his team’s 60-day research mission during the anaconda breeding season.
Here’s some more on our one-on-one conversation with Discovery’s executive producer of Eaten Alive, Mike Sorensen.
On where the idea came from…
Mike Sorensen: The idea came from Paul Rosolie himself. He’s a naturalist. He’s an author. He really spends a lot of his time in Peru and focuses on an area called the Floating Forest and is a strong advocate of the biodiversity of the region. He pushes conservation for anacondas in a huge way. He actually tries to make sure that anacondas and people — especially in very rural villages — aren’t in direct contact, so he’ll actually transplant anacondas to more safe areas to protect the snakes from people and vice versa. It really came from him, from his love and passion of snakes and his love and passion for this region of Peru, which is not a place where many people have ever been. Our first thing was, we wanted to hear more about him and his personal story and his love and affection for snakes and Peru. This came from him. He said, “I want to build awareness for anacondas in Peru and I really want to do something that stands out. I have a message to protect this area. I’m trying to raise money and awareness to protect this area of Peru.”
On why did Paul believed he needed to be eaten by the snake …
He actually runs an eco-friendly expedition company in Peru to educate people about anacondas in the area, and he said he wanted to do this and here’s why it’s important: “The only way to get up close and personal to study anacondas and understand how powerful they are and to understand what they are is for me to have a suit that would protect me, protect the snake and get the data that I need. If the snake eats me then I might be able to go inside a snake and understand how they operate and get some data that I would never be able to get on my own.” That’s how the pitch came in.
Well that makes sense.
So how big does that snake need to be to actually eat Paul?
That’s a big question for us. How big does a snake need to be in order to be able to even try to consume somebody? And I think in his instance — the size snake he’s looking for, which is a snake he’s seen before and that he’s had his arms wrapped around before is in this area where it breeds once a year and he’s like maybe that one would be possible. “Maybe if I could get a 23-, 24-foot anaconda that I’ve seen before — maybe that could actually consume me, but anything smaller I just don’t know.”
He’s going in it with eyes wide open with curiosity, this is still a question people don’t know and there is a lot of speculation.
On who you call to make you a snake-proof suit …
This started with Paul and the company he was working with. Our first step here was give us the feasibility report — what are you up against and tell us if this is even possible. He worked with a team of engineers and a team of herpetologists and the engineers were really responsible for. How do I protect you? How do I create something that stops the acids? We worked with a major chemical producer who actually has suits that can withstand acids of this strength/PH. How do I get something that protects my arms from the bite (although anacondas are not venomous, they are constrictors)? How do I get something that protects my torso and my rib cage and my head from the constriction? They really went piece by piece, and the engineers designed the suit in order to do that. [You can now buy these suits at Wal-mart. OK, totally kidding.] Working with the herbitologist was really on how do we make sure that the suit is protective on the snake and that a bite on the arm has a certain layer of neoprene so it’s soft to the anaconda so it’s not biting on armor for lack of a better phrase — so it’s protective for the snake – first and foremost, too.
On the safety of the snake …
Obviously, both Paul and Discovery want to make sure that the protection and safety of the snake is paramount, and that was the first question we had. Vice versa, Paul’s got to be safe. We would never jump into this if there was an issue. Safety was our critical concern from day one.
On making Paul appetizing to the snake …
He used pig’s blood on the suit to make him appealing to the snake. [Remember Sissy Spacek in Carrie? She was also covered in pig’s blood.] We learned through the process that snake’s are defensive. If they signal a threat, whether or not they are hungry or feeding, they want to neutralize a threat. Anacondas are the apex predator in that area for a lot of reasons and I think that’s something that we found out along the way. But you know, definitely the first thing for him was to put pigs blood on himself because snakes love pigs, which I didn’t realize.
On does the snake actually eat him …
What would the fun be of that? I will tell you that it’s an incredibly intense scene of his altercation with the snake.
So what do you think? Leave us your comments below.
Eaten Alive premieres Sunday, Dec. 7 at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery Channel.
All images (with the exception of Carrie, which was a screen grab) we credit Discovery.