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How to Survive an Anaconda Attack

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | March 27, 2010

"A weapon which you don't have in your hand won't kill a snake."
African Proverb

I have not met very many people who like snakes. Many of us hardly like looking at them through thick glass at the zoo. 

Evie has always hated snakes. Her dislike was magnified when a thoughtless high school science teacher required every boy and girl in the class to pick up a snake, hold it for a moment, and then pass it on to the next person. 

The girl next to Evie panicked and threw her snake at Evie and it landed right on her. Needless to say, that coldblooded reptile flew across the room like a "bat out of hell." 

One of our most memorable moments with a snake, however, took place during a church service out in the bush on the Serengeti Plain of Kenya, Africa. We had experienced the amazing music and colorful dancing of those precious African Christians. As I preached my sermon, a missionary interpreted it into Kiswahili and then a local pastor interpreted Kiswahili into a local dialect. We will never forget that service. 

Many of us were standing under a vintage old tree which shielded us from the hot African sun. After the service we noticed a bit of commotion near us. Moments later several men showed us the remains of one of the most deadly snakes in the world, a dead black mamba snake whose bite will kill you within three minutes. And, it had just been right above us in that huge old tree. 

Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica and most islands. Biologists have categorized the 2900 species of snakes into 15 families. They range in size from the tiny thread snake (four inches long) to the reticulated python (over 33 feet long). 

The largest snake in the world is the green anaconda. That snake can get as large as the reticulated python but it is its diameter which is most amazing. The anaconda has been known to get 44 inches in diameter or up to the waist size of a grown man. 

At a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast Fred Hubler, Chamber President, referenced a Peace Corps instructional bulletin for young men and women headed toward the Amazon jungle. The bulletin is a practical guide for that region titled, "How to Survive an Anaconda Attack." 

It went something like this. If you are ever attacked by an anaconda, do not run and do not panic. If you run, you will not get away. You can't run fast enough. Instead, simply lie down on your back and calmly wait. The anaconda will climb all over you. After about 15 minutes of examining you, it will go to your feet and begin to slowly swallow them. Do not move. Simply remain patient and do not panic. 

It will take some time for the anaconda to work its way up to your lower legs. Again, be patient and do not panic. After 10 to 20 more minutes it will reach your knees. Remain completely still. Do not panic. 

At this point you will want to slowly reach to the sheath on your belt and carefully pull out your jungle knife. Once you have a firm grip on your knife, gently place it, with the blade up, where the side of your leg ends and the anaconda's mouth begins. And, in one swift moment, you thrust the knife into the snake's mouth and kill it. 

There was one final instruction. Quickly step out of the snake's mouth and go back to camp. But it was followed by this important P.S. Do not forget your jungle knife and make sure it is sharp. 

I don't know if any of us will come across an anaconda today but just in case we do, there is never any harm in being prepared. (smile) 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu