Snakes, Jaguars and the Amazon: The Best of Paul Rosolie

I adore snakes.

I admire their languid movement, obscure mannerisms, and ability to vanish into their environments. I marvel at the terror they invite from everyone who lays eyes on them. I respect their power to kill in a single bite.

But growing up, I had no one to share these interests with. I thought only I was crazy enough to jump out of classrooms and run after snakes. I thought I was alone in my passion for the wild.

Then I came across Paul Rosolie.

Paul is a naturalist who, like me, LOVES snakes. While he is originally from Brooklyn, his heart lies in the depths of the Amazon, among the anacondas he tracks. 

He LIVES for the wild.

I first came across Paul in his book, “Mother of God”. In it, he details his journey from the concrete metropolis of Brooklyn to the wilds of Amazonia and India. My heart raced as he rode 20 ft long anacondas and looked jaguars in the eye. His relationship with Lulu, an orphaned anteater that he fostered, made me cry a river. 

I found someone who shared my irrational, inexplicable passion for the wild. 

Here I have curated some of his content for you to dive in. His love for the wild might just rub off you.

  • Mother of God: In his memoir, Paul described his life-changing journey through the Amazon with such clarity that I explored the jungle trails through his words: 

A growl erupted from the darkness. A god’s voice. Warm breath fell on my neck in savage staccato like thunder, cosmic and overwhelming. Every fiber of my body understood the command of that growl: don’t move. I closed my eyes and lay still, too terrified to move. Cradled in blind purgatory, grasping at lucidity, I was helpless and prayed that whatever happened next would be over quickly.”

His transformation from a curious kid bored with school to an intrepid explorer is one I deeply connect with. I, too, recall years spent in slow atrophy as I struggled to stay awake during classes. I still feel the dread of waiting for exam marks that supposedly determined my future. In his story, I found that there are higher things to strive harder for.

Now the Amazon is a wilderness unparalleled in the world. It conjures up images of boundless forest stretching beyond the horizon, with rivers snaking their way in numerous twists and curves. It is the hot seat of our world’s biodiversity, harbouring more species than anywhere else on earth. Even the Western Ghats of India (where I had my wild awakening) pale in comparison to this wild labyrinth. 

In the book, he unearths new ecosystems and takes long boat rides with poachers into the forest. He describes the Amazon in a clarity that only comes with spending days immersed in its wilds. 

If I had the choice, I would drop everything right now and just explore the Amazon. I want to walk its trails, climb its trees and swim in its waters. That is how much this book has moved me.

Also, Jane Goodall said it was extraordinary! 

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  • The Girl at the Tiger: In this work of fiction, Paul narrates the story of Isha, who travels across India to get a tiger cub back to the wild. It traces the connection (and lack thereof) between nature and the man-made world. Moving through an ever-modernising India, Isha and the tiger battle all odds to survive in this mosaic of landscapes.

This story is especially personal to me, as it follows a landscape I a very familiar with. It is like the “Jungle Book” for a 21st-century world; something to inspire younger generations. (I have also spent much of my childhood imagining what it would be like taking care of a wild animal; I could experience my vicarious dream through this book!)

I singled out this podcast because I am passionate about treating our on-ground conservation warriors better. They brave very harsh conditions in the wild and yet are paid low wages and are badly treated. It is because of these people that our forests still exist. They possess knowledge and strength that rival even the best professors and athletes. It is high time we gave them their due.

  • Peru: An Unseen World: This film is what put Paul Rosolie in the spotlight. It contains a series of camera trap footage showing the sheer diversity of animals in Peru’s Madre De Dios region. I was stunned to see the variety of animals that can live in one place in the jungle. Jaguars, Spix Guans, Howler Monkeys, Pumas, Tapirs, Ocelots, Brocket Deer, Armadillo, Capuchin Monkey, Squirrels, Squirrel Monkeys, Rabbits, Possums, Porcupines, Paca, Peccary, Anteaters; you name it! Seeing all these animals in one tiny sliver of foresr stirred something inside me. It showed me that there are still wild places on earth, worth all the optimism I can muster.

Curiously, this is where I met Paul for the first time. It had been years since I had read his book, yet the frisson of meeting him washed over me.

He had many people mob him after the talk, so I waited patiently for the crowd to thin out. With a casual swagger, I walked up to him.

However, when he asked me for my name, I said that I would not tell him my name yet. I said he’d find out once I had made it big in the conservation world. We had a good laugh, took a picture, and then went our separate ways. He said he looked forward to getting to know my name!

At the moment, it seemed like a very cool idea. I thought, “Let him find out on his own; that is how successful I will be”. But now, many years later, I realise I need not wait until then. Rather, I should get in touch as soon as possible. If we were to join forces now, think of what we could do.

Looking ahead, I would love to work with Paul at some point. I would love to explore the Amazon and see all the widllfie I’ve just read about in books. I want to learn everything there is to learn about the jungle. I want to be one with nature.

(PS: And I want to run after anacondas with him too! Just the thought of tracking snakes excites me beyond words.)

It is time I join the army of conservationists fighting for the survival of our planet. Their strategy is simple; save our world by saving its wild spaces.

If you want to learn more about Paul, head to his website.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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