Thursday, December 25, 2014
An Interview with Paul Rosolie of Discovery Channel's Eaten Alive
Catch naturalist, author and award-winning wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie attempt a groundbreaking feat by tuning in to ‘EATEN ALIVE?’ premiering in Southeast Asia on Sunday, December 28 at 9:00 p.m. on Discovery Channel.
Question: Could you talk a little bit about the snake-proof suit and how that was built to protect you?
Paul Rosolie: So they – we needed something that would be structurally strong enough to protect my body and the crush of the anaconda, so we made a carbon fiber suit. We brought in experts to do this, and we tested the suit with trucks. We used winches to actually bring the suit up to 300 psi, and when it didn’t break at 300 we took it farther – we said we’ll take it to failure – we’ll break the suit. We couldn’t break the suit, so we figured I’d be safe. We used shark armor on my arms to make sure that no teeth got through. We used a chemical layer to make sure that if I did get inside the snake, I’d be protected from the stomach acids, and we had communication, breathing. I swallowed a pill to transmit my temperature and heart rate out to the doctors. So the suit was incredibly high-tech. And I made some suggestions that would make it appealing to the anaconda, and then the engineers used their expertise to make it so that I would be safe.
Question: How did you come up with the idea of being eaten alive by a snake?
Paul Rosolie: Somebody asked me if it’s possible for a human to be eaten by a snake, and I told them that people have been eaten by snakes. It’s not been documented officially, but it has – in my experience in the Amazon – it has happened. So, very much joking, I said that I should make some sort of a suit that would protect me from the crush and I should get eaten and get spit out. I was joking. And then it turned into a, you know, once we talked about it, and realized how much it would excite people and how much, how, you know, the visibility of it – it started becoming a more enticing option and then we started pursuing it, seeing if it could be done, and then started putting together, you know, we used the opportunity of that, used the partnership with Discovery to start this study, to start raising money, and doing all this stuff to protect the habitat.
Question: So you spent two months in the most remote area of the jungle – where exactly did you go, and why did you pick that area?
Paul Rosolie: We were in the Peruvian Amazon, and the west Amazon is the wildest part of the – it’s the most intact part of the Amazon, and it’s also the most bio diverse region of the world – there are more plants and animals there than anywhere else. And we went to a place called the floating forest, and this is a place that we found out from the locals is, like an anaconda sanctuary. They go there and they stay on these floating mats of grass and they can breed there and if any threat comes they can dive under the mats into the lake and be safe. So there are huge anacondas there – we knew that there was potentially the biggest snake in the world living there.
Question: How did you cope with the problem of the anaconda not eating live prey?
Paul Rosolie: Everybody keeps telling me that anacondas don’t eat live prey. A simple YouTube search will show a Burmese python completely swallowing a live alligator. So, I’ve also seen snakes eat their prey live. And many snake experts are saying that snakes will only eat dead prey. It’s most of the time a snake kills its prey before eating it, but it’s not unheard of – the thing is they want to subdue the prey – they want to make it so that the prey can’t defend itself, so they crush it and they squeeze the life out of it. But I have seen constrictors take down live meals, and there’s plenty of evidence to support that that does happen, so I’m pretty surprised that people are still asking that.
Question: Did you develop an attachment to the snake?
Paul Rosolie: I develop an attachment to every snake. I love these snakes, but this one – it’s kind of like once you step in a boxing ring with somebody, there’s a relationship there. Like, I got to get thrown around by this snake and she gave me an experience that no one else has, which was special, so yeah I did have an attachment to the snake.
Question: Which part of the experiment was most dangerous?
Paul Rosolie: Surprisingly, we did so many safety measures with the suit that I think I was safe. I really wasn’t worried going into that. I actually think the most dangerous part was looking for the anacondas themselves – spending 60 days out in the Amazon on expedition, searching through the floating forest, being in the jungle at night, and actually wrestling these snakes in deep water was – that was the dangerous stuff.
Question: How were you supposed to breathe inside the anaconda?
Paul Rosolie: I was wearing a diving mask built into my helmet, and the cord ran down off my back and out my heel – so I was connected to an air supply with a crush-proof hose, so I knew that my air supply would be secure.
Question: What would you say to some of the animal rights activists who are in an uproar about the show?
Paul Rosolie: That they shouldn’t judge things without having the facts first. But also I – I actually applaud a lot of the people for coming out and speaking up on behalf of the snake. Usually snakes are the villains, people kill them, and I – so I thought it was cool that they came out and they were standing up for a snake, and I just wish that people – if they care about snakes – they should care about the environment the snakes live in – and that’s sort of the jump that I want to make with this show. I think one of the things that’s exciting about it is that it is controversial and it is very shocking, and I think that’s what nature television needs – is to sort of reimagine itself. We have to find a way of engaging people. Because unless you keep the knowledge and fascination of nature in people’s minds – half of the planet lives in cities now, so you really have to find a way of communicating that stuff, you know, the way Steve Irwin did.