Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

In the Belly of the Beast

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

In the Belly of the Beast

Article excerpt


One thing we know for sure about the man whom Discovery is touting as having been "eaten alive" by an anaconda is that the 27- year-old Ramapo College graduate survived -- intact, except for some heated controversy.

We know he's alive and well because Paul Rosolie, who grew up in Wyckoff, has been all over the media in recent days to talk about the already-filmed special.

"It was definitely a very strange experience and leading up to Sunday, we're not letting anybody know how this plays out or how far we got," says Rosolie, a naturalist, wildlife filmmaker and author, on the phone with The Record, his hometown newspaper, this week. "But a lot of people were wondering, 'Is this real? Is this just a fake thing ploy?' And this was a very real thing. We were definitely focused on the real attempt to be the first to do this. So, for me, it was very intense."

After Discovery released a trailer for "Eaten Alive" last month, it quickly went viral, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a scathing statement about the "blatant publicity stunt," saying, "If the description is accurate, the snake was tormented and suffered for the sake of ratings -- as animals usually do when they're used for entertainment. Anacondas go days without eating and expend the energy needed to do so selectively. Making this snake use up energy by swallowing this fool and then possibly regurgitating him would have left the poor animal exhausted and deprived of the energy that he or she needs. Shame on this pseudo 'wildlife expert' for tormenting this animal, and shame on the Discovery Channel for giving him the incentive to do so."

Rosolie, who majored in environmental studies at Ramapo, disputes PETA's charges, insisting that the snake's well-being was a top priority. "I wouldn't have done this project if I thought there was any way that we would hurt the snake," he says, noting that there were experts on hand to ensure the safety of both him and the anaconda. "We had herpetologists and veterinarians to monitor the snake... We also had a team of people making sure that I was alive and healthy."

As for the anaconda being deprived of energy and sustenance, Rosolie says, "In the wild, they regurgitate often. If a snake is eating a deer, and another predator comes up, they have to regurgitate that prey item before they can escape."

Rosolie knew this was going to be controversial, but says that was always part of the plan. He has been working in the Western Amazon and came up with the "eaten alive" idea to grab people's attention to not only protecting the anaconda's habitat, but to the wider issue of the fragility of the Amazon ecosystem and the ongoing destruction of the rain forest.

"We all know that the Amazon's being destroyed, the rain forest is disappearing. …

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