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HORSE-DEVOURING ANACONDAS.

1 — SNAKES OF THE UPPER AMAZON, In an Article on reptiles, published in the "Nutnionnl Geographical Magazine,"' Curator Ditinars, of the New York Zoological Park, makes the following statement regarding the length and size of the boa constrictors, or anacondas, of South

America. "Species of the genus boa inhabiting tropical America attain a maximum length of twelve to fourteen feet." Having recently explored n section of the .Invary Kivcr region, situated about 2200 miles from the mouth of this great river, I may stale | that 1 have assisted in the killing and skinning of a sucuruju, or anaconda, having a total length of 54 feet 8 inches when dried. This measurement was taken very carefully, and was witnessed by several men. Tho statement made by Mr. Ditmars would therefore seem too conservative, and possibly is the result of n too limited knowledge of the fauna of South America, and the upper Amazon in particular.

It may bo said in favour of my statement concerning the length of this enormous boa, which to some may appear exaggerated, that few' white men have ever penetrated this remote pnrt of cquaroriul South America, where the land is inundated for the better part of the year. The entire Amazon Valley is then transformed into a vast swampy forest steaming under the equatorial sun, and in it there is an astonishing development of reptilian life.

Evidence in support o( the contention that there are larger serpents in this region than Mr. liitmnr's would lend ono to suppose may lie found in the following volumes—H. W. Bates's "A Naturalist on the Amazon," A, It. Wallace's "Travels on the Amazon and Uio 'Negro," and ('. Wuterton's "Wanderings in South' America." ■' Charles Waterton, in his volume "Wanderings in South America," says on page 250 that an associate of his killed a boa 22 lect long. This boa, he snys, "had a pair of stag homes in its mouth. The boa had swallowed a stag, but could not get the horns down, so he had to wait in patience with that unconiI fortable mouthful till his stomach had digested the body, and then the horns dropped out," The same author records that • "the Cnmoudi snake of the Orinoco (Iho nnaconda) has been killed from :i0 to 40 feet long ; though not venomous, his size renders him destructive to passing animals. . . . The Spaniards on the Orinoco posl- ' tively affirm that he grows to a length of 70 to 80 feet, and that he will destroy the strongest and largest bull, Ills name seems to | conlirin this; there he is colled Ma-

Inloro, which literally means hullkiller."

11. W. Bales, in his famous " A Naturalist on the Amazon," says -"I was aroused a little after midnight, as I lay in my little cabin, by a heavy blow struck at the side of the canoe close at my head. This was succeeded by the sound of a weighty body plunging in the water. " 1 got up, hut all was ugain quiet, except the cackling of the fowls in our honcoop, which hung over the side of the vessel, about three feet from the cnbin door. I could find no explanation oi the circumstance, and, rojr men being all ashore, I turned in again and slept till the morning. 'I then found my poultry loose about the canoe, and a large rent In the bottom of the hen-coop, which was about two leet above th( iurl»ce o< the lditer,

A couple of iowls were missing. j "Scnor Antonio said the depredator was a sucurnju (the Indian name for the anaconda) which had for months past been haunting this part of tho river, and had carried off many ducks nnd fowls ft om the houses, I wos Inclined to doubt the fact of the serpent striking at Its prey from the water, and though nn alligator more likely to be the culprit, although wc had not yet met with alligators in this river (ltiver Tapajos).

"Some days afterward a parly of] young men agreed to go in search of the serpent. They began in a systematic manner, forming two parlies, each embarking in two or three, canoes, and starting from points several miles apart, where they gradually approximated, searching all the inlets on both sides of the river. The reptile was found at last, sunning itself on a log at the mouth ot a mwkly rivulet, and was finally despatched with hnrpoons.

"I saw it tho day utter it was killed. It was not a very Inrge specimen, measuring only 18 feet Si inches in length, and 10 inches In circumfcrenco at the- widest part ol the body. "The reptile has a mast hideous appearance, owing to it being very broad in the iniddlo and tapering abruptly at both ends, It is very abundant in parts of the country, nowhere more so tlian the Lago Grande, near Knntnrcm, where it is oftca seen coiled up in the corners of tho farmyards, and is detested for its habits ot carrying ofi poultry and young calves, or whatever animal it can get within reach of. "At Ega or Telle"—a small town situated on the banks of the Amazon about 1800 miles from its mouth, wlicrc Mr. Hates spent several years—"a large anaconda was onco near making a meal of a young lad of about ten years of ag» belonging to one of my neighbours. The father and son went out, ns was' their custom, a tew miles up the Teffo liiver to gather fruit, Landing on a sloping sandy shore, tho boy was left to mind the canoo whilo the man entered the forest.

"While the boy was playing in tho water, a huge reptile of this species stealthily Wound' its toils nrowitl him until it was too Into to escape. Tho boy's cries brought his father quickly to tho rescue. He rushed forward, awl, seizing the anaconda bodily by the head, tore its jaws asunder." A. 11. Wallace, in his honk "Travels on the Amazon and liio Negro," says—"Wo receded a fresh innintc into out veranda, in the person of a fine young boa constrictor. It was tightly lied around tho neck of a good-sized stick, which hemmed tho freedom of its movements, and appeared nearly to stop respiration. H was only ten feet long, and very large, being as thick as a man's thigh. " We fitted out a box witli bars at the top, and got the Indian who sold it to us to put it into tho rage. It immediately began to make up for lost tiino by breathing most violently, the expirations sounding tiko high-pressure steam escaping from a Great Western locomotive."

He says—"As so few whites havo seen these largo serpents, and the very existence of any largo enough to swallow a horse .is generally discredited, the following story appears In "Travels in Brazil," by the well-known botanical traveller, Dr. Gardiner—

" 'ln tho marshes of this valley in tho Province of Goyaz, near Arrgyns, the boa constrictor Is often met with of considerable size. It is not uncommon throughout the country, particularly In the wooded margins of lakes, marshes, and streams. Sometimes they attain the enormous length nf 'lO feet. " 'The favourite riding horse of Senor l.agorivn, which had been put out on the pasture not fur from the house, could not ho found one dny, although n strict search was insliluted nil over .the fazenda, Shortly nfter this, one of his vaqucros (cattlemen) in going through the woods by the side of a small river, saw an enormous boa suspended in the fork of a tree which hung over the water. It was dead, but had evidently been floated down alive by a recent flood, and, being In mi inert state, it had not been able to extricate itself before (he waters fell.

"' It was ilrnpßL'tl down to an I npcn place liy two horses, and was found to measure H 7 feet in length, j On opening it, tlio hoiio-s o( a horse, - in n somewhat broken condition, | and the flesh n half-dieosted t state, were found within. '{if-, the 1 bones of the howl being iminjuwl: From these circuinstnnces we concluded that the boa linil devoured the horse entire.' Algot Lnnge, in tlio New Voi'k "Sun." i

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HORSE-DEVOURING ANACONDAS. North Otago Times, 28 March 1914, Supplement

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