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You’re swimming in the beautiful waters of Peru when something pulls you under. You struggle to get above the water as a reptilian face appears before you and opens its huge mouth. It’s coming straight for you.

The green anaconda is a giant beast. It can grow to 9m (30 ft) long and weigh as much as 225 kg (550 lb). It’s average meal weighs about 18 kg (40 lb), but an anaconda will eat something as large as a white-tailed deer, which weighs about 54 kg (119 lb). The snake’s prey can range in size from 10% of its body weight to a whopping 146%.


The good news is that you are not on the anaconda’s list of favorite meals. But, if provoked, it will attack. How will it subdue you? Could it swallow you whole? Can you cut your way out of this massive snake?

Step 1. Carry a large knife

According to the U.S. Peace Corps, don’t run. This snake is faster than you are, so that won’t help. The Corps suggests you lie down and play dead. This assumes the snake will start by swallowing your feet. When it gets up to your knees, take your knife and slide it inside the side of the snake’s mouth. Then quickly rip upwards to sever its head.

But don’t think you’ll be able to cut yourself out if an anaconda does swallow you. Once you’re inside, there won’t be any room for you to move and slash outwards. I’m not interested in just giving myself up to the snake, especially since anacondas kill their prey before eating it.


Step 2. Stay in the Light

The most successful way to prevent being swallowed by an anaconda is to avoid anaconda. So stay away from swamps and rivers in tropical regions of South America. If you can’t do that, avoid wandering during the night. That’s when anacondas are most active.

Step 3. Don’t Wet Yourself

Anacondas are most dangerous in the water. They will wrap themselves around you and pull you underwater and drown you. Staying out of the water will at least give you a fighting chance.

Step 4. Toast it

No, I don’t mean you should carry a blow torch and light it on fire. Although, that might work. The first thing an anaconda will do is wrap itself around you and squeeze the life out of you. You’ll need to get it to release you, or you’re dead. Splashing alcohol into its eyes may irritate them enough that the snake will let you go.


Step 5. Dress for the occasion

Of course, you could just walk around in a constrictor-proof suit. In 2014, filmmaker Paul Rosolie donned such a suit hoping an anaconda would eat him alive for a TV special. Minutes after the snake wrapped around him, Rosolie panicked and called for his team to pull him out. So maybe wearing one of these suits isn’t the best idea.

If you do get swallowed, a carbon fiber or neoprene wetsuit may help you survive the hydrochloric acid in the snake’s stomach. But you’ll have to work fast to get out. The acid will start eating at you right away. It only takes three days for a python to digest an alligator’s soft tissues, and your skin is nowhere near that tough.


Step 6. Be a nuisance

Don’t go quietly. If the snake swallows you whole, the more stress you can cause it, the more likely it will regurgitate you. An anaconda kills its prey before swallowing to protect its insides. If it thinks you are a danger, the snake will vomit you up. So wriggle around, kick and pray it spits you out.

If, by some miracle, you get swallowed by an anaconda and survive, you will be a mess. It probably crushed your shoulders and other bones to fit you inside its body. You’ll also have burns from the snake’s stomach acid. You’ll need to get to a hospital right away.

If you ever recover, you’ll know not to go swimming in Peru again. But don’t think the ocean is any safer. Whales have mouths big enough to swallow you whole too. Do you think you’d have a better chance of surviving in their four stomachs?


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