In his nearly 10 years studying anacondas in the Amazon, researcher and conservationist Paul Rosolie, 27, has faced his share of danger. The giant reptile is known to grow up to 30 feet in length — and strikes its prey using its teeth and powerful jaws before crushing it with its massive body. Rosolie has been bit by one of the snakes and seized by one in a chokehold — suffering from a broken rib and a nearly popped collarbone before five people were able to pry it off him.
But none of that compares to what he endured in his first TV special, “Eaten Alive,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Discovery Channel and documents Rosolie’s attempt to get ingested by a giant green anaconda — all in the name of bringing attention to the rapid destruction of the Amazon and, of course, spiking TV ratings.
“I wanted to do something that would absolutely shock people,” says Rosolie, who is tall, dark-haired, bearded and well-spoken when it comes to his passion for the rain forest. “Environmentalists, we love to preach to the choir. What I’m trying to do with this is bring in a bunch of people that wouldn’t necessarily know what’s going on in the Amazon.
Rosolie filmed “Eaten Alive” last summer, when he and a crew of about a dozen spent 60 days hiking and camping in the Peruvian rain forest, looking for snakes in the “floating forest” (the locals’ term for dense vegetation on top of a body of water), the habitat of anacondas.
“You can’t just walk into the Amazon to find one of these things, they’re incredibly hard to find,” Rosolie says. “A lot of the most dangerous stuff that we went through was just while searching for these snakes — we came up against crocodiles, electric eels, huge falling trees, flooding rivers and poachers.”
The team had nearly run out of the time Discovery Channel had allotted for the expedition before it found the anaconda they were looking for — a 25-foot, 400- to 500-pound female that Rosolie first came across when he explored the floating forest in 2008 (green anacondas have an average life span of 10 years in the wild).
Rosolie is prevented from revealing what happened after that — he will only say that the stunt allowed him to feel the true power of the animal.
And he has a lot of ideas for his next TV special (though he’s keeping mum on specifics) and sees himself following in the footsteps of one of his childhood idols, “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin — even though the famous nature educator died in support of his work.