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New National Geographic documentary about giant snakes by SCC Biology Professor Jesus Rivas

Somerset Community College Assistant Professor Jesus Rivas spent his summer shooting another documentary about Anaconda snakes for the National Geographic Channel. The documentary, entitled Anaconda: Queen of the Serpents, will air on the National Geographic Channel on Saturday, Feb. 6, beginning at 8 p.m.

The Venezuelan-born Rivas teaches biology at Somerset Community College. Before settling in Kentucky, Dr. Rivas worked and participated in field research in many place around the world.

Among his unique work experience and travels is the first and only study on the biology of the Green Anaconda. He has done extensive periods of field work in Venezuela and Ecuador. For 3 years, he worked for National Geographic Television doing documentaries all over the world.

Rivas became involved in studying the gigantic Anaconda snake when it became clear that poachers were depleting the Venezuelan populations. Rivas was hired by the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species to study the Anaconda.

They wanted me to tag the snakes with radio transmitters, track their paths and measure their growth, Rivas said. The problem was nobody knew anything about Anacondas.

Rivas, who has always had respect for local cultures, said he decided to ask the people who lived in the region for help. So, he enlisted the help of the Llaneros, Venezuelan cowboys.

Older people have been herding their cattle on the savannahs where the Anaconda lives for 50 years, he said. They had learned a lot about the snakes in all that time. They knew where to find the snakes at different times of the year and they knew what the Anacondas ate. Pretty soon, by listening to their advice, we were tagging 15 snakes a day.

Rivas began a successful partnership with National Geographic when he received a $25,000 grant to continue his study of the Anaconda. It was during that time that Rivas was involved in the National Geographic documentary, Land of the Anaconda. The success of that film lead to more than a dozen documentaries on crocodiles, venomous snakes and other types of constrictors.

Anaconda: Queen of the Serpents is the most recent of those programs for the National Geographic Channel.

Rivas said, Working in the field on these documentaries helps me in my classroom teaching by exposing SCC students to science and real life biology. I incorporate these real life experiences into my classes.

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Jesus Rivas holding large anaconda Somerset Community College Biology Professor Jesus Rivas is shown here holding a giant Anaconda in an outtake from the upcoming special on the National Geographic Channels Wild program. The special, entitled Anaconda: Queen of the Serpents, will air at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6.