It Was All a Ruse: New Jersey Man Paul Rosolie Did Not Get Eaten By an Anaconda

UPDATE [12/8/2014, 2:45 p.m.]: TMZ reports that the snake wasn’t found in the wild—it was shipped in like a prop. This just gets worse and worse.

Several weeks ago we told you about New Jersey-raised conservationist Paul Rosolie, who signed a deal with Discovery to be gobbled up by a 20-foot anaconda in the Amazon rainforest. Well, last night that episode finally aired on Eaten Alive, and there was no gobbling up, just a little nibbling. Here’s how Flavorwire reviewed the two-hour episode:

What resulted was one of the most boring programs on television, devoid of all interest and conflict. It was a total flop. … For much of the episode, Rosolie and his crew hang out in the jungle, trying to find this snake but mostly just walking around. Sure, there are some beautiful visuals, and it does bring attention to the rainforest… but c’mon, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to watch a guy get eaten by a snake. …

But there is no eating. Instead, there is a lot of wrestling with a snake in the mud, strange writhing around with this poor creature that just wants to, like, slither around with his friends and not get pinned down by a weird man in a ridiculous outfit (I should mention that they built a specialized crush-proof suit to ensure that Rosolie wouldn’t die inside of the snake). It’s very anticlimatic, even when the snake angrily snaps at Rosolie’s helmet. After some rolling around, Rosolie calls for help because his arm is being crushed. And that’s about it. For someone who was totally willing to be eaten by an anaconda, hang out in said anaconda’s stomach, and then be regurgitated back up, it’s kinda funny that he’s so scared of a broken arm.

Not surprisingly, folks who tuned in to watch the feat are outraged that they were duped by Discovery. They caused so much of a stink, in fact, that Discovery had to release a whole statement about it:

Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife. He went to great lengths to send this message and it was his absolute intention to be eaten alive. Ultimately, after the snake constricted Paul for over an hour and went for his head, the experiment had to be called when it became clear that Paul would be very seriously injured if he continued on. The safety of Paul, as well as the anaconda, was always our number-one priority.

You’d think this would mean that those among us concerned about the cruel nature of the concept would be relieved, but PETA is still pissed the episode ran at all. Senior Vice President Lisa Lange released this statement this morning:

Last night, despite protests by conservationists, biologists, herpetologists, and decent people everywhere who oppose the abuse of wildlife, the Discovery Channel aired the inexcusable torment of a captured wild green anaconda and several other snakes. The animals were removed from their water habitat and transported to a filming location, and the chosen snake was deceived into using her precious energy reserves to constrict a human being pretending to be a pig, all for a publicity stunt.

Under natural conditions, anacondas go weeks and even months between meals, eating only when necessary for survival and expending the tremendous amount of energy required to attack, constrict, and consume large prey only when the payoff outweighs the risk. Paul Rosolie and his crew put this snake through undeniable stress and robbed her of essential bodily resources. She was forced to constrict and then not allowed to eat.

Study after study has shown that entertainment features such as this one that show humans interfering with and handling wild animals are detrimental to species conservation. Rosolie knows this. Discovery knows this. Yet they chose to contrive and air this shameful stunt for ratings anyway.

So no one really wins—except maybe Discovery’s execs who are just thrilled that they coerced tons of people to tune in. Talk about snakes in the grass!