If you live near the banks of the Tempisque River in Guanacaste, you may want to keep an eye on your livestock, as well as your dogs and cats. An anaconda slithered away from its unnatural farm habitat, where it was kept as an exotic pet by an owner described by neighbors as “a powerful gringo” in Costa Rica.
The 12-meter long anaconda is not native to Costa Rica, and it has residents from rural towns along the large Tempisque River in deep fear. According to a news report in tabloid newspaper Diario Extra, neighbors from the towns of La Guinea to Paso Tempisque have reported sighting the animal feasting on small caymans (Caiman sclerops), and there are rumors of missing cows -although they have been unsubstantiated since one of those cows has already turned up.
La Guinea is part of the Nicoya Archeological Region, and in the past it has been the site of important digs by anthropologists and archeologists. The fact that an anaconda is running loose in this community is a sign of a growing problem in Costa Rica: The exotic pet trade.
The Hunt is On
The Ministry of the Environment (Spanish acronym: MINAE) has organized a hunt for the loose anaconda. Public officials from the local conservation area are also investigating reports of yet another exotic pet owner in the area who may be keeping an anaconda in his or her property. With regard to the escaped anaconda, Diario Extra has reported that this large reptile was kept in a cage by an owner who is an expat from the United States. A farmhand tasked with feeding the snake, which was brought from Brazil, got spooked while carrying out his duties; the ophidian apparently could not resist the call of the Tempisque River.
A good portion of the area where the anaconda might be is protected by government conservation officials who are concerned that it might be feasting on deer and jaguars. These two species are already threatened by the loss of habitat they experienced for many decades before conservation and reforestation took hold in Costa Rica.