Life is filled with danger inside the bustling moist tropical rainforest in Africa.
Every form of life must be smart and strong to live in this wet place. There is so much competition from the wildlife that it peaks the curiosity of every person on the planet. Lions, cougars and tigers wait ready to pounce upon anything it can call food. There are hundreds of species of birds with an abundance of sounds and colors adding to collage in the jungle.
There is the top area where the tall tree tops reach the sunshine. Then there is another layer of large plants and vegetation that gets some sunlight. Next is an area that gets very little sunlight and then there is the floor of the jungle that gets no sunlight. It stays very wet and humid all of the time. Vines and ferns of all sorts supply most of the green growth here. Occasionally flowering plants add their seldom seen beauty to the lower levels of the rainforest.
However there are unknown varieties of snakes that slither along the floor of this vast wet land and each one is looking for food. One bite from most of these reptiles can cause instant death to a human.
It is here in the Amazon Rainforest that one of the most dangerous of all snakes lives. It is well known for its size all over the world. The Anaconda snake has no enemies but makes all others its prey. They eat monkeys, huge cats, large fish, other snakes, humans, and even the feared crocodile. The giant Anaconda is a member of the boa family and to date is the largest snake in the world. Natives have claimed to see a monster Anaconda of over 140 feet in length and more than 600 pounds. However this length has not been confirmed by scientist but most scientists confess there is a great possibility that there are such monsters.
The name Anaconda comes from the Indian word killer and the South American word referring to a large elephant. Combined these two words become the dreaded reptile of the world, the Anaconda.
The Anaconda like many snakes has a forked tongue that they use to tell if they are nearing food. They can also sense from the molecules on the tongue if there is a female snake of the same species, which direction she is going and if she is ready to mate or not. They are non-venomous but can swallow some of the largest animals in the rainforest on a regular basis.
It is on the island of Madagascar that a boy named Zentou and his family lives. Zentou’s father began teaching him how to capture the anaconda since he was only a child. Today they were about to go on a mission few people ever get a chance to go on. They are looking for the giant anaconda that snatched his six year old sister Beli from the water, wrapped around her quickly and swallowed her head first before they could get to her. This was a mission of great importance to Zentou. Zentou believes this anaconda to be a female because of the massive size and how quickly his sister was eaten.
“The anaconda was seen by villagers before but it was never as aggressive. They have many backward facing teeth they use to grab their victims with. They can hold them with the teeth until they can wrap their coils around them and squeeze them to death. It only takes them a matter of seconds to strike. We believe this anaconda was lying in the water for a very long time just waiting for a chance to snatch food. I’ve seen them stay under water for thirty minutes at a time. Then they will slowly come to the surface and get air.
They are very patient and will do this as long as it takes to seize the animal. Once they strike, there is very little anyone can do because the muscles tighten so quickly and are so strong no one can make them turn loose! When I find this particular anaconda I will shoot it.” He told a man who was helping with the boat.
So it was that Zentou, his father and several villagers got aboard the boat to search for the giant reptile.
“How many guns do we have here?” Zentou’s father asked.
“Enough! I just hope we have enough ammunition.” His eyes searched the surface of the water for any sign of bubbles or movement. The sun was blazing down upon them as they made their way up the Congo River.
“The one I am looking for is about twenty feet long and looked to be over 300 pounds. So it will not be hard to see. My sister was very small so I feel it will be feeding again soon.”
It wasn’t long until they spotted several male Anacondas’ who were attracted to an ovulating female. It looked like a ball of snakes all wound up together but the female looked too small to be the one they were searching for. They quietly steered the boat around the massive ball of snakes proceeding on their quest.
It was getting late and the sun was beginning to lower in the sky. Zentou was beginning to think they would have to wait until the next day when all of a sudden he saw a massive head rise slowly out of the water. The waves in the water let him know that the monster was still moving.
Zentou motioned for the men to cut off the motor of the boat. They stood quietly observing the eyes just beneath the surface of the water.
“I got him! Everyone stand down. I want to be the one to put the bullets into the head of this snake.” Zentou said in a hushed voice.
Zentou aimed his gun and waited. Just as the snake began to move Zentou fired his gun several times. The shots rang out loudly echoing near and far. Then before anyone could think, Zentou dove into the water and grabbed hold of the snakes head.
“Oh my god, be careful men and don’t shoot. You might hit Zentou.” His father shouted.
With this he too jumped into the water. The snake rolled over and over in the water then submerged itself. Zentou and his father went under as well. The men on the boat were frightened beyond words. They could not do anything now. It was now up to Zentou and his father.
It seemed like forever when Zentou’s father surfaced. Then Zentou’s head popped up out of the water.
“I got him I think. I’m going back down just to be sure!” He gasped.
It wasn’t long before the men began to tie ropes to the huge snake. They were going to carry it back to the village. It would be a grand feast and everyone would be fed well.
“First things must be first!” Zentou announced. “I am going to see if my sister’s body is in the stomach of this beast, if so we will give her a proper burial.”
It happened that Zentou did find his beloved sister in the stomach of the snake. He did give her the proper burial his family always gave and the villagers had a grand festival that lasted for days.
“I have only one thing to say!” Zentou called out to the villagers.
“These waters are not safe anymore. There are many Anacondas’ in this area and they are having up to 80 live babies daily. They begin to have babies as early as 4 years of age. We must work harder and be more vigilant if we are to out live these snakes. You can see by what happened to my little sister, it only takes seconds to be eaten. These beasts literally squeeze the breath out of its victim. They do not crush it as many think. It only takes three minutes for an anaconda to swallow its prey. This jungle is the most dangerous place in the world and we must keep our eyes open constantly.”
The villagers shouted and clapped their hands. Some began to dance around the fire. As night fell upon the jungle and sleep came upon the villagers, the anacondas slithered along the edge of the river looking for food.
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Question for children: “How did Zentou kill the Anaconda?”