Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

EXPOSING THE CON IN ANACONDA - OR, HOW I MONSTERED A MONSTROUS SNAKE HOAX


The online photo of a supposed gargantuan anaconda shot in Africa's Amazon River !! (photo-manipulated photograph's creator(s) unknown to me)

Less than a month after debunking a trio of quasi-coloured mock pythons on ShukerNature (click here), I was able to do the same to an even more outrageous hoax of the constrictor kind, this time involving a much-manipulated photograph of a green anaconda Eunectes murinus.

According to the record books, this anaconda species, the biggest known to science, rarely exceeds 20 ft long. However, many reports have been filed concerning a truly colossal form of anaconda supposedly existing amid the vast jungle swamplands and lagoons of Brazil and elsewhere in South America – the so-called sucuriju gigante – that allegedly far exceeds that size. In 1907, the subsequently-lost explorer Lieut.-Col. Percy Fawcett reputedly shot an estimated 62-ft specimen as it began to emerge from Brazil's Rio Abuna but couldn't salvage its monstrous form, and there have even been a few photographs made public that allegedly portray killed but never-preserved specimens of it (click here for my ShukerNature coverage of some examples). Could the subject of this present ShukerNature blog article be another such picture? I don't think so!

Photograph of a supposed 130-148-ft-long sucuriju gigante killed in or around 1932 at Manaos, Brazil, after having been captured alive (public domain)

During the late evening of 1 August 2015, I saw the startling photograph opening this ShukerNature article posted on Facebook friend Simon Hicks's 'Zen Yeti' FB group page. If it were genuine, the slain anaconda featured in it would be truly gargantuan – but was it genuine? The oddly-contorted, compressed coils of the snake didn't look natural, but any specimen that so dwarfed the humans standing around it (yet standing around it in a remarkably unconcerned, disinterested manner, I might add, for persons supposedly in such close proximity to so immense a snake, dead or otherwise) is always going to attract suspicion anyway.

It was linked to the timeline of one Rakesh Mintu Bjp, and when I clicked that link it took me to an annotated version of the photo on this person's timeline. I also checked online outside Facebook, and the photo and annotation had already appeared on many other websites during the past month or so. Consequently, neither had originated with Bjp – he had merely posted one such copy on his FB timeline, as had several other persons, I discovered, which means that the originator of the photo and annotation is currently unknown. Anyway, this is the annotation:

"World's biggest snake Anaconda found in Africa's Amazon river. It has killed 257 human beings and 2325 animals. It is 134 feet long and 2067 kgs. Africa's Royal British commandos took 37 days to get it killed."

Even if the photograph hadn't seemed dubious before (which it had!), after reading the garbled nonsense above I could now have no doubt whatsoever that it was a blatant, and exceedingly silly, hoax. And how did I know this? Where to begin?!!

Well, first and foremost: unless someone has sneaked it into Africa without telling me, the Amazon River is famous for being the largest in South America.

Secondly: unless someone had thoughtfully embedded a veritable 'kill-o-meter' inside the anaconda, how could anyone state so precisely how many humans and animals it had killed?

Thirdly: its length is more than 4 times the maximum confirmed length for any modern-day snake, and more than 3 times the maximum estimated length for the longest snake ever known from planet Earth – Titanoboa cerrejonensis, from the Palaeocene epoch in what is now Colombia, which is believed to have attained a maximum length of around 42 ft and a weight of around 2500 lb (1135 kg – only about half that of the photo's mega-anaconda).

Titanoboa life-sized model exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution, in the Natural History Museum © Ryan Quick/Wikipedia – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License)

Fourthly: there is no such regiment as Africa's Royal British commandos.

Fifthly: how on earth could it take 37 days to kill this snake, huge though it would have been if real? A concerted artillery or machine-gun salvo to its head would surely have dispatched it in a far shorter time period.

And sixthly (if such a word exists!):  regardless of how long it took to kill this alleged ophidian behemoth, where are the wounds, the signs of how it met its end? It looks extraordinarily, inexplicably, unbloodied - indeed, entirely unmarked, unwounded in any way - to my eyes.

Just after midnight on 2 August, I posted on my 'Journal of Cryptozoology' FB group's page a link (click here - but only accessible to members of my FB group) to the photo as it appeared on Rakesh Mintu Bjp's timeline.

All that was now needed was the original, non-manipulated anaconda photograph to bring this sorry snake saga to a well-deserved end, and, after spending all of 2 minutes online using Google Image after having posted the fake photo's link on my 'Journal of Cryptozoology' page, I duly uncovered it, here, on a page dealing with anacondas, from a Brazilian biology website entitled 'Bio Curiosidades'. If you scroll down the page, it is the fifth photo from the top of the page.

The original, non-manipulated anaconda photograph (© www.ninha.bio.br)

The fake photograph had been produced by person(s) unknown simply by horizontally-flipping the above, original photograph to create a mirror-image version of it, then compressing it horizontally to yield those oddly-shaped coils, then either superimposing from a second photo the people and background around it, or, more probably, superimposing it upon a second photo containing the people and background.

After finding this photograph on the 'Bio Curiosidades' website, I duly posted on my 'Journal of Cryptozoology' FB group page a link to it, beneath my previous one linking to the fake photo. Case closed.

Thus endeth the tale of the giant anaconda that was merely a giant con.

The original, non-manipulated anaconda photograph alongside the fake, photo-manipulated version; NB - I have horizontally-flipped the original photo here in order to provide a direct comparison of it alongside the fake photo (© www.ninha.bio.br for original photo/creator(s) of fake photo unknown to me)







2 comments:

  1. There is some more info on the origin of the text and some hilarious images that went with it before it was attached to this image at http://m.snopes.com/fauxtography-animals-worlds-largest-snake/

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  2. when I was a kid, *the* book to have regarding snakes was from the Time-Life series. Thin, but packed with illustrations ... and the dramatic one were the drawings encompassing two full pages (!) that compared the various snakes, with the Anaconda on top, and the Reticulated Python just below. It showed what they could eat (seemingly impossible), and the max length: 30 feet for both. Now it seems the 30 foot mark was certainly an over-estimate for the Anaconda, I read a recent article that doubted the existence of any over 18 feet anymore. But maybe a hundred years ago? fascinating to think so.

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