Home | Field studies and notes | The Green Anaconda – Natural History of the World’s Largest Snake – Part 1

The Green Anaconda – Natural History of the World’s Largest Snake – Part 1

Green AnacondaHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Working with Green Anacondas (Eunectes murinus) in the Bronx Zoo and participating in a capture/tagging project in Venezuela was a childhood dream come true.  While I cannot recommend a potentially deadly behemoth as a pet, interest in them is always high…today I’ll highlight the natural history of this impressive giant.

Description

A stout animal that may exceed 400 pounds in weight, this is the world’s heaviest snake.  It vies with the Reticulated Python for the title of longest serpent.

In the past, 25-foot-long animals were encountered, but an individual approaching 20 feet is considered large today.  There is a fairly reliable record of a 33-foot-long Green Anaconda; an unverified field report from Eastern Columbia (1944) claims an individual of 37.5 feet.  In the course of tagging over 500 specimens, the largest I and my co-workers encountered in Western Venezuela was just over 17 feet long and tipped the scale at 215 pounds. 

Wild males rarely exceed 12 feet in length, and are thinly built.  A captive male under my care was, however, as heavily built as any female and measured in excess of 15 feet; colleagues report similar experiences.

The dorsal surface is dark green, olive or grayish-green and marked with irregular black blotches.  The ventral surface is yellow with black blotches.  The eyes and nostrils are dorsally located, an adaptation to the largely aquatic lifestyle.

Range

Trinidad and much of tropical South America east of the Andes – Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, Northern Bolivia, Northeastern Peru, Guyana and French Guiana.

Habitat

Green Anacondas are almost completely aquatic and rarely stray far from water. They inhabit rivers, swamps, lakes and flooded grasslands.

Status

Frank and Green AnacondaStatus is difficult to ascertain due to the nature of the habitat, but declines have been documented; listed on CITES Appendix II.

Feared and often killed when encountered, Green Anacondas are hunted in some areas for their skin and fat (believed to be of medicinal value).  They are also threatened by the expansion of farms and ranches.

Longevity

Captives have lived in excess of 31 years; unknown in the wild

Reproduction

Several males (2-12) coil about a single female, drawn by the pheromones she releases.  Spurs alongside the cloaca are rubbed against the female to help elicit copulation. Successful males may introduce a waxy plug into the cloaca in an attempt to assure paternity.

Green Anacondas give birth to 10-100 live young after a gestation period of approximately 6 months.   The size and number of young are related to the size and health of the mother.  Examples from animals under my care: a 20-foot-long female gave birth to 50 young averaging 3 feet in length; a 13-footer produced a dozen youngsters averaging 24 inches.

Gravid females bask far more frequently than do others, and may consume the fetal membrane and infertile eggs passed with the young.  Newborn Green Anacondas are secretive and rarely seen; little is known of their natural history.

From fish to sheep a 60 pound deer that I weighed personally, Green Anacondas take a wider range of prey than just about any other snake. In Part II we’ll take a closer look at wild and captive diets, and some current field research.  Please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

Further Reading

You can read more about the research mentioned above in these articles:

Hunting Anacondas in the Venezuelan Llanos

Anaconda Expert Wades Barefoot in Venezuela’s Swamps

National Geographic Video of an Anaconda capturing a Capybara.

4 comments

  1. avatar

    I am really interested to hear your thoughts on the recent ban on large snakes in Florida. Personally, I think we as a community brought this upon ourselves by selling large snakes to irresponsible keepers who then released the unwanted pet into the wild. But then again we cannot investigate each and every buyer and there will never be a guarantee with any buyer so its almost a catch 22 situation how can we remedy this from going further?

  2. avatar

    Hello John, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Important point, thanks. I’ve been involved in many investigations into serious injuries and fatalities…in my opinion giant constrictors, venomous snakes, crocodilians etc. are not appropriate animals to be selling in the trade for private collections. The problem re introductions can happen with countless species, especially in Florida, but in this case we have a serious safety issue as well.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    I love that pic of the snake.

  4. avatar

    Hello Breonna, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog…I was very fortunate to have been there. Look forward to hearing from you in the future.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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