The Land of the Anaconda
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Life history of the Green anaconda
The green anaconda is the largest snake in the world. Although famous, very little is known about its life history. Until I began my research, no field studies had been carried out on the species. Due to the skin trade and habitat degradation its numbers have declined in places where they are not protected. In an effort to protect the species I, with a team of friends and colleagues, began the Anaconda Project in 1992, with the aim to learn the basic aspects of the anaconda’s biology in order to create guidelines for its protection and possible management.
At first, to work with anacondas seemed like a formidable challenge that I could not overcome. However, I chose to work in the llanos where the strong dry season makes the animals much easier to find and catch. Later I learned how to find, catch, and restrain them in the field. The areas of my research are: natural history, population dynamics, habitat use and mobility, diet preferences, predation of adults, and juveniles, their health status and diseases they may suffer, mating system and reproduction, systematics, the biology of neonates, among many other aspects of the life of the anacondas.
Among the many aspects that I have learned in a casual way from the snake, just by following them for so long is the presence of cannibalism in green anacondas and in a related cousin that occurs in Bolivia.
I have learned how often they are wounded by their own prey and other aspects of their natural history, the possibility that they can attack a human being. I have also learned several tricks to work with them such as how to measure, how to wire an anaconda both forced or by surgical implantation on them with minimum distribution of the behavior, among many others.
My ultimate goal is to learn all the secrets of the life history of the animal and get a more firsthand knowledge of it. I have gathered eleven years worth of data catching and processing more than 900 animals and with more than 170 recaptures. I have followed with radio transmitter more than 38 animals, collected more than 100 diet samples, I have also found 51 breeding aggregations and studied the mating, pregnancy and delivery of more than 47 females. With the information gathered I hope to develop a management plan for the conservation of the species and the area in general as well as learning more about the secret life of these fascinating animals.