World's Biggest Snake: An Anaconda Killed in the Amazon?

Debunking an Urban Legend and Photoshop Fail

Whether the urban legend about a giant anaconda started as a parody, hoax, or just a joke, it's a testament to the fact that you can't believe everything you read on the internet.  

Description: Viral image/Hoax
Circulating since: 2015
Status: Fake/False

As shared on Facebook, July 2, 2015:

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 [4,557 lbs]. Africa's Royal British commandos took 37 days to get it killed.

Analysis 

Where does one begin? Shall we start with the location of the Amazon River? It's in South America, not Africa.

Moreover, although Africa certainly has its share of big snakes, the anaconda isn't one of them. Anacondas are native to South America, literally an ocean away.

Manipulated Image

The viral image does appear to show a real anaconda, though its size and shape were grossly distorted when the image was manipulated to create the impression that we're looking at "the world's biggest snake." Take a look at the focal points in the photo. The people in the foreground and background are in sharp focus but the middle of the image isn't? Cameras don't do that, just Photoshop failings.

Let's Talk Size

viral giant anaconda hoax
The image above supposedly shows a humongous anaconda killed in Africa and responsible for the deaths of 257 people during its lifetime. Somehow we doubt any of the above is true. (Viral image)

Herpetologists say giant anacondas (Eunectes murinus), also known as green anacondas, can grow to about 30 feet (9 m) in length, maximum, and weigh up to 550 pounds (227 kg). They're more commonly 17 feet (5 m) long. That makes the specimen described above roughly five times larger than any real anaconda ever observed. Indeed, it's many times larger than any real snake ever observed. The largest known python was about 33 feet long, the record books say.

A prehistoric snake named Titanoboa (Titanoboa cerrejonensis)—believed to be the largest snake species that ever existed—might have grown to as much as 50 feet (15 m) long and more than a ton (454 kg) in weight, paleontologists say, but that's still less than half the size claimed for the anaconda above. It probably was more likely 30 to 35 feet long (9–10 m) and 100 to 150 pounds (45–68 kg).

It Killed How Many Human Beings?

The giant anaconda in the photo is alleged to have killed 257 human beings in its lifetime—never mind how anyone was supposedly able to keep tabs on that, not to mention the precisely 2,325 animals it allegedly killed. Given that the lifespan of your average anaconda in the wild is about 10 years, that means our oversized friend had to have killed a minimum of 25.7 people per year before it was finally put down.

Bear in mind that the anaconda is a nonvenomous snake. It cuts off the blood supply to its victims through constriction or drowns them, and it goes after prey at night. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, only a handful of human deaths per year, worldwide, can be attributed to all of the nonvenomous snakes we know of.

Or look at it this way: No matter where it the world it was happening, if it were known that a monster snake was killing 25 people per year, all by itself, for 10 years running, you would have heard about it on CNN long before this internet image went into circulation. And people surely would have stopped going near it at night after the first year, wouldn't they?

Monster Snakes Are More Shareworthy

So, why is this bogus image still circulating? Because, let's face it, the internet loves anomalies and doesn't much care whether any given example is real or fake. Sure, fear of snakes is as old as humanity itself, and snake stories were popular in myth and folklore long before the advent of the internet, but these days it takes more than an anecdote about a squiggly encounter to get people's attention. It takes a photo of a snake half the size of a football field with more confirmed kills than Mr. Rogers.