Despite the fact that anacondas are mostly associated with preying on people, these giant snakes can make good pets for experienced pet keepers (not beginners) as long as the keepers understands the demands, dangers, and responsibilities that come with it.
"A man eater." That's the description that anaconda snakes have earned themselves for as long as they have lived. However, this could be nothing more than just character assassination, given that these snakes actually don't exist to eat us. Forget about what you may have seen in movies and documentaries, the crux of the matter is that anacondas are not out to do harm to humans. As a matter of fact, the real incidents of anacondas swallowing people have been few and far between, if at all there have been any. And, the irony is that the anacondas which have been killed by humans outnumber the people who have been killed by these snakes by far. And that's because people act out of the fear that anacondas are always on the lookout for opportunities to pounce on humans and swallow them whole. Baseless fear, I call it.
So, don't give in to the hype and myths. If you've an affinity towards big pet snakes but you fear having an anaconda in your home, then this guide is here to quell your fears and give you an assurance that an anaconda is not as bad as people portray it. All you need to remember is that it's not a pet for the inexperienced keepers; it's not a pet for kids either. But before we delve into the implications of keeping these snakes and what their husbandry entails, let's look at some facts about them. First things fast, remember!
Facts You Did Not Know About Anacondas
Anaconda is a general terms used to refer to four species of snakes, which include the Bolivian anaconda, Dark-spotted anaconda, Paraguayan/Yellow anaconda, and of course, the Green anaconda. You can distinguish these four species based on such things as geographic range, genetics, and size. For instance, the Green anaconda is the biggest of them all; it's also the biggest and heaviest snake (can weight up to 250 kg) on the planet. In terms of length, its only second to reticulated python. Did you know that female anacondas are usually bigger than their male counterparts of the same species? That's true. Additionally, anacondas are typically found in the tropics of South America.
Despite enjoying a long-standing reputation as deadly reptiles, anacondas are actually nonvenomous, and they are non-poisonous. More often, the snake will retreat if it senses your presence. If you ever watched the "Eaten Alive," then you can better understand what I mean here. In this program, which was aired on the Discovery Channel, Paul Rosolie, a renowned American conservationist, tries to provoke the Green anaconda to swallow him up. Instead of pouncing on him, the snake tries to flee from Paul.
Having an Anaconda as a Pet
When anacondas first announced their arrival in the pet market, they did not attract many customers because not many people thought that it was possible to have these snakes as pets. Besides, people lacked valid knowledge as to what anacondas really are. Instead, the fear about these snakes overshadowed every possible good thing about them. With time, however, this has since changed. More knowledge and truths about anacondas have emerged, making people to start seeing anacondas as snakes which can make good pets. However, one thing I must stress time without number is the fact that anacondas are not for every pet keeper. For one, they can be dangerous, especially due to their size. That's why a Yellow anaconda is preferred over the Green anaconda (the former is smaller, hence easier to take care of). Besides, anacondas can easily turn into a defensive mood for nothing, and that can be very dangerous.
What Is Involved in Caring for an Anaconda
If you give birth to twins, then you should be ready to breastfeed them. That's what the wise say, right? So, if you decide to keep an anaconda, then you should be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and do what is required. Yes, keeping this type of snake is demanding. As a rule, ensure you do plenty of research before trying to punch above your weight. Let's now dive into what is involved in keeping an anaconda.
Caging: With an anaconda, you're probably rearing the biggest snake in the world, and the least you should have is a cage that is big enough to house your pet. However, it can be difficult to find a suitable anaconda cage in the market. As such, you may want to make your own. As to what material is need for making the cage is not etched in stone. Just be sure the material you choose for your cage is strong enough to stand the force and weight of the the snake. You can imagine a 200-kg snake trying to escape from a weak cage. Don't forget that anacondas keep on growing. So, if you want a one-time investment, then get a cage that can accommodate an adult anaconda, but if you're starting with a small cage, then you should be prepared to upgrade as the snake grows. A mature green anaconda may require up to a 100-square feet enclosure (green anacondas can grow up to 10 m long).
Inside the cage: Your pet needs to enjoy the comfort it deserves in order to be alive and kicking. So, buying or constructing a well-sized cage will not be enough. The cage needs to be staffed properly. First, anacondas, like most snakes, thermoregulate, which means the snake will be moving around its enclosure in search of suitable temperature conditions. Thus, creating an appropriate thermal gradient in the enclosure is more than essential. One end of the cage should be cooler, while the other end should be warmer (install a heat source). Also, the cage should have a pool of water that is big enough to allow the snake submerge fully. Anacondas like swimming, and they are known to hold their breath for a couple of minutes (up to 10). Be sure to drain and refill the pool regularly for hygiene purposes.
The cage floor should be covered with a substrate, which can be cardboard or newspapers. Going for a natural substrate can only take the comfort of your snake to a whole new level. If you're purchasing such a substrate, you will not have to worry about the humidity in the cage since natural substrates are known to absorb odor and keep humidity levels under check. With anacondas associated with large stools, you will also need a water filtration system in the cage to keep the house clean and hygienic. Otherwise, bacteria can thrive, and you may lose your pet in the long run. A hide is also needed, given that your snake would like to hide sometimes. Hiding is a natural behavior depicted by most snakes, not just anacondas. How big should the hide be? It should allow the snake to coil itself inside without leaving any part of its body exposed.
Food: Being carnivorous, anacondas feast on a wide range of animals, including pigs, rabbits, capybara, rodents, and fish. Yes, small snakes can eat mice, but big anacondas have to eat big animals, otherwise they will starve. While anacondas can be expensive to feed, one good thing with them is that they don't feed daily. That is because they eat a lot of food at once, and their digestion is generally slow. Typically, their eating intervals take weeks. If you're having one as a pet, you can feed the snake every two or three weeks, but don't forget to keep your snake's weight in check. The need to control its body weight could dictate how much and often you feed it. However, juvenile anacondas can be fed every one week, and that's for obvious reasons (they are growing).
Note: Your anaconda can be very dangerous when hungry, so you will need to be very careful when feeding it (anacondas are large constrictors). Come up with a feeding method that guarantees you safety. For instance, use long tongs to offer food to your pet. For the safety of your pet, it's recommended that you offer it dead preys, rather than live ones. That's because live preys may decide to put up a fight, which may end up inflicting injuries on your snake. That may result in infection. To avoid this, treat your snake to frozen, pre-killed animals.
What to Think About and Consequences
If you're an inexperienced pet keeper, then an anaconda may not be for you at all. Besides your level of experience with snakes, you may want to look at other factors when deciding to acquire an anaconda as a pet. Here is what to think about and expect.
Legislation: What does the laws in your country say about keeping anacondas. You won't keep one if the law prohibits. Unless you're doing your stuff within the law framework, the long arm of the law may catch up with you.
Food availability: As mentioned earlier, anacondas, especially mature ones, feed on big animals, such as chicken, pigs, and rabbit. Are you able find the food? If you can't find it, your pet can turn into an enemy and decide to attack any animal around it.
Snake species: What species of anaconda do you want to keep? While there are four species in total, only two of them are available in the market: The Yellow and Green anacondas. If you can handle the biggest snake, then the Green anaconda can be the way to go, but if you want a pet that is a bit small (more manageable), then the yellow anaconda has to be your choice.
Lifespan: Anacondas in captivity can manage up to more than 30 years of age. The oldest anaconda, Annie (kept in Johannesburg), has more than 36 years now. Are you prepared to feed your snake that long? Well, the decision is all yours.