In the months leading up to my Venezuela trip, I spent a lot of time on google researching the llanos and its wildlife. This lead me to discover the photo album of Matt, a field grunt on the Forpus project the year before me. Particularly I was stoked to see this photo. What an awesome place Masaguaral must be, with anacondas and crocs killing each other all over the place! I was giddy with excitement.
Fast forward to mid-October. I was half-way through my stay at Masaguaral, and I had largely exhausted herp diversity. As far as snakes go, I had seen only a handful, representing only three species. Anacondas were nowhere to be found, despite abundant habitat and frequent searches of places staked out by the llaneros for me. They even showed me the anaconda door in the croc pens (a hole in the barbed-wire fence) and where the 'conda frequently enters to bask. No luck, despite checking every time I passed the place. I was getting worried.
Then one evening before dinner, Elysa comes in after talking to the ranch manager. You want to see an Anaconda? she says. Well... YEAH!!! I say. So I grab my camera and headlamp and rush out the door. The results...
A huge anaconda (Eunectes murinus) with a Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) in its death grip! Awesome!!! The whole time we watched it there was almost no movement at all. At least, until I leaned a bit too close and she stuck up her head to take a look. Not wanting to mess, I backed down.
There wasn't any struggle from the caiman, because he was already very dead. Just look at the angle the head makes with the long axis of the body, or the look on his face:
More 'conda pictures for your enjoyment:
We watched these beasts for a while before we got bored with the lack of movement. I came back later in the night just to see the progress, and nothing had changed. The ranch manager (thank god he tipped us off!) said the last time a kill like this happened, the anaconda was present for two days before getting the caiman swallowed and moving on. So, I went to bed, but not before capturing my favorite shot:
In the morning, 'conda and caiman were gone, with only displaced vegetation on the pond's edge to mark the scene of the struggle. She's somewhere out there, digesting, and I couldn't be happier.