Giant Anaconda

Individual Snake or a separate species of anaconda of South America that exceeds the accepted length of 30 feet.

Variant names: Boiúba, Boiúna, Camoodi, Cobra-grande, Controller, Ibibaboka, Lampalagua (in Argentina), Matatora (Spanish, "bull-killer"), Sachamama, Sucuriju gigante (Portuguese, "giant anaconda"), Yaurinka.

Physical description: Length, 40—150 feet. Dark-chestnut color. Diameter, more than 2 feet 6 inches. Weight, up to 5 tons. Triangular head. Two horns above the eyes. Large eyes glow phosphorescent blue at night. Off-white spots on belly.

Behavior: Semiaquatic. A swift swimmer. Creates a huge wake.

Tracks: Wide furrow through the swamp, with trees pushed up.

Distribution: Amazon River basin, Brazil; less credible reports are from Argentina, Venezuela, and Guyana.

Significant sightings: Explorer Percy H. Faw-cett shot a 62-foot anaconda on the Rio Abuna, Acre State, Brazil, near the Peruvian border, in January 1907. However, its largest diameter was 12 inches, which seems small for the length.

Fr. Victor Heinz saw a giant water snake on the Amazon near Alenquer, Brazil, on October 29, 1929. Its blue-green, phosphorescent eyes were at first mistaken for a riverboat's lights.

A photo made into a postcard shows a 105-foot snake with shining eyes that was reportedly killed by the Brazilian Boundary Commission on the frontier with Venezuela in 1932. It was said to be 4 feet thick. No hint of the snake's giant anaconda 189

Large, but not giant, anaconda (Eunectes murinus) at the Bronx Zoo. From the National Geographic Society's Scenes from Every Land. (© 2002, Inc., an IMSI Company)

size is provided, though three out-of-focus humans can be seen in the background.

Another photo taken in 1948 or 1949 by Joaquim Alencar shows a huge snake, variously said to be 115 or 147 feet long, floating on the Rio Abuna, Acre State, Brazil.

In 1977, Amarilho Vincente de Oliveira saw a giant snake with horns and greenish eyes on a tributary of the Rio Purus, Brazil.

Present status: The record length for an anaconda of 37 feet 6 inches, reported in 1939 or 1940 by Robert Lamon, is not universally accepted. John Murphy and Robert Henderson point out that enormous snakes have fewer places in which to hide from predators, and their great size would cause problems with maintaining blood pressure in the tail. After surveying the ratio of minimum adult length to the record length of many snake species, Peter Pritchard has concluded that the maximum length of a snake is 1.5—2.5 times its shortest adult length; small anacondas are 10—12 feet long, making the largest theoretical length 30 feet. Aaron Bauer estimates that Fawcett's 62190 giant anaconda foot snake had to have been at least 30 inches in diameter and spend virtually all its time in the water.

Possible explanations:

(1) Skins of normal-sized Anacondas (Eunectes murinus) are often dried and stretched, resulting in a much greater length. Even a skin that is not stretched can be 10—20 percent longer than the live snake.

(2) Field estimates are often unreliable, especially for snakes that are partially submerged.

(3) An unknown species of anaconda that normally attains such lengths.

(4) Reports of horns might be caused by protruding eyes, fleshy outgrowths caused by an injury, or barlike markings on the head.

Sources: Algot Lange, In the Amazon Jungle (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1912), pp. 229-238; Afranio do Amaral, "Serpentes gigantes," Boletim do Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi 10 (1948): 211-237; Percy H. Fawcett, Exploration Fawcett (London: Hutchinson,

1953), pp. 92-93; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 284-298; Paul Gregor, Amazon Fortune Hunter (London: Souvenir, 1962), pp. 58-65, 85-90; Tim Dinsdale, The Leviathans (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), pp. 120-130; "Giant Snakes," Pursuit, no. 6 (April 1969): 36-37; Richard Perry, The World of the Jaguar (New York: Taplinger, 1970), pp. 97-100; Gerald L. Wood, The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats (Enfield, England: Guinness Superlatives, 1982), pp. 107-108; J. Richard Greenwell, "Colonel Fawcett and the Giant Anaconda," ISC Newsletter 11, no. 2 (1992): 8-11; Bob Rickard and John Blashford-Snell, "The Expeditionist," Fortean Times, no. 70 (AugustSeptember 1993): 30-34; Peter C. H. Pritchard (letter), "The Tympanum," Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 29, no. 2 (1994): 37-39; John C. Murphy and Robert W. Henderson, Tales of Giant Snakes: A Historical Natural History of Anacondas and Pythons (Malabar, Fla.: Krieger, 1997), pp. 23-45; Jeremy Wade, "Snakes Alive!" Fortean Times, no. 97 (May 1997): 34-37; Gary S. Mangiacopra, Michel M. Raynal, Dwight G. Smith, and David F. Avery, "Snake Bounty on Giant Boas," Fortean Studies 5 (1998): 202-207.

Possible explanations:

(1) An out-of-place Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla); the nearest of these animals live 1,000 miles away in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, it's unlikely that a zoo escapee would have gone unnoticed. The arid environment of Namibia would be inhospitable for a forest ape.

(2) Surviving australopiths, whose fossils have been found in the region around Johannesburg. Australopiths were a family of Pliocene fossil hominids that persisted into the Early Pleistocene, 4.4-1.4 million years ago. They had apelike skulls, hominid teeth and projecting jaws, and an upright, bipedal gait, although they apparently also climbed trees.

Sources: John Sanderson, "Memoranda of a Trading Trip into the Orange River (Sovereignty) Free State, and the Country of the Transvaal Boers, 1851-52," Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 30 (1860): 253; "Ape in SWA May Be Gorilla," Salisbury (Zimbabwe) Evening Standard, November 18, 1959; D. Neil Lee and Herbert C. Woodhouse, Art on the Rocks of Southern Africa (Cape Town, South Africa: Purnell, 1970), p. 148; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les bêtes humaines d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1980), pp. 548-552.

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