In an oddly ironic twist, the future of Bolivia’s anaconda snakes is being threatened by the very eco-tourists who travel there to see them.
12,000 Tourists Annually
Anacondas, said to be the world’s largest snake, are a prime attraction for the 12,000 or so visitors who now travel to Bolivia’s lower Amazon basin every year, according to Extreme Adventure News.
Many of these are eco-tourists, drawn to the opportunity to view some of the country’s spectacular and varied species, with the anaconda being the jewel in the crown.
Anacondas May Be Wiped Out Within Three Years
From The Daily Telegraph:
Biologists say the entire population of anacondas in one of the jewels of the Amazon basin will be wiped out within three years because of the deadly effect on the snakes of the insect repellant used by most backpackers to help protect against malaria.
The number of tourists going on tours of the pampas that snake there way through jungle and grasslands 250 miles north of La Paz has exploded from a few hundred to nearly 12,000 a year in the past decade.
Travellers are enticed by the promise of getting up close and personal with the world’s largest snake – sometimes picking them up and hlding them – as well as swimming with river dolphins, catching pirhanas, and spotting monkeys, sloths and an array of other flora and fauna.
But sightings of the snake are becoming increasingly elusive and as many as 30 of the awe-inspiring creatures, which can measure up to 30ft in length and are known to strangle and devour prey as diverse as caiman crocodiles and cows, are being found dead every year, according to local guides.
Highly Toxic DEET To Blame
Scientists explain that the high-strength insect repellant, usually DEET, that tourists use to protect themselves from mosquitoes (and malaria) is absolutely fatal to the anacondas.
Clearly, Bolivia needs to develop a better system to spread the word about the dangerous effects of DEET and to develop a more effective way to market their eco-tourism, which, it turns out, is not very eco-friendly, after all.
On the other hand, other “natural” insect repellants are not as effective against malaria. An interesting conundrum. What do you think?