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In 'Eaten Alive!': Diving into anaconda's belly

Paul Rosolie with snake in Discovery Channel's "Eaten

Paul Rosolie with snake in Discovery Channel's "Eaten Alive." Credit: Discovery Channel / Mohsin Kazmi

"Eaten Alive!"

Hey, at least the title is provocative. But a review of the program? It's on Discovery Sunday night at 9, so we can't help you there.

In lieu of review copies featuring herpetologist Paul Rosolie as the main course for a 250-pound green anaconda, Discovery has offered Rosolie instead. That may be a shrewd move because in a series of interviews during the past two weeks, he has defended the controversial act -- Rosolie is ensconced in a specially made fiber suit before literally disappearing down the hatch -- and has made a pitch for his true passion project: Preservation of the endangered Amazon basin and those furtive (and voracious) creatures that inhabit it.

Some outtakes of my conversation with the 27-year New Jersey native and author of "Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon:"

Obvious question: Why?

I grew up in New York at the Bronx Zoo and Jungle World and . . . felt I had to go out to these places, and, once out there, it made me mindful of my responsibility to take care of these places. The plants and animals that make up that system depend on every piece in it, plus it provides a fifth of our planet's oxygen and a fifth of its fresh water. You take out the Amazon, you lose those things.

How does getting eaten by a snake help?

The anaconda's an apex predator that's essential to the ecosystem, and you see the forces destroying the incredible otherworldly beauty of the Amazon while I've seen scientists spend their entire careers trying to help, and yet more and more is destroyed. I wanted to do something that would shock people and get a conversation started.

Mission accomplished on the conversation part, but your critics have been loud and angry -- danger to the snake, being one issue. How would you address them?

I'm encouraged to see so many people stand up for a snake. Thirty-five thousand have signed a petition on PETA to take down the show. [But] if you care about the snake, take a look at where these snakes live and the thousands of other species that live in a place that's being burnt to the ground every day. That's animal abuse.

So no one -- snake or man -- was hurt in the production of "Eaten Alive"?

Absolutely not. I love this species completely and am awe-inspired by it. I would never do anything to hurt one.

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