Last year, a 40-year old man found himself naked in a lush rainforest of Costa Rica. He was looking for something to eat when he disrupted the habitat of a large terciopelo (fer-de-lance) snake, which he proceeded to kill with a stick. The killing of the reptile, which you can watch here, was filmed by the production crew of Naked and Afraid, a reality show that plays on the Discovery Channel cable television network. Why did this snake have to die?
Naked and Afraid is described by Discovery as follows:
Each week, a new pair of complete and total strangers – one man and one woman – will find themselves stranded in and, quite literally, exposed to some of the world’s most extreme weather environments. Each duo will be left high and dry with no food, no water…and no clothes. They must survive on their own for a full 21 days, with nothing but one personal item each and the knowledge that the only prize is their pride and sense of accomplishment.
Reality survival shows, like Shark Week, are very successful for Discovery networks. Adding nudity to the mix and scouting locations such as Costa Rica, Tanzania and the Louisiana bayous has been a profitable endeavor for Discovery even though the naked protagonists of each show are subject to heavy pixelation of their genitals (for aesthetic reasons and probably because the show plays on basic cable).
Back to the fer-de-lance: As expected, the naked couple was flustered, hungry and very uncomfortable after a few days. While foraging for food, the man picked up a log and found the fer-de-lance coiled up inside a pit on the ground. He recognized the deadly snake and directly announced to the camera his intention to kill it, which he did efficiently and without pity.
Fer-de-lance snakes are not edible, and the couple could have moved the bivouac area away from this snake, which didn’t look like it was going to strike first. Nor was the snake sacrificed for the sake of TV entertainment; it turns out that the ophidian was killed for the safety of the film crew as one of its members nearly lost his foot and his life in March 2013 as he was scouting for locations. Steve Rankin recounted the event to Outside magazine:
On the morning of March 23 at 8:00 A.M., I hiked into the tropical forest in the Heredia province of Costa Rica [he is probably talking about Sarapiqui] with three other members of our production crew, a local guide named Gerhard, and a local wildlife expert named Pomipilio. We needed a solid rainforest location, and this area of Costa Rica offered amazing terrain and loads of biodiversity.
I scrambled up a five foot fallen tree. I paused, and glanced up ahead at the two guides before looking down to check for anything slithering near my feet. Then I jumped off the trunk.
Bang. It felt like I’d been stabbed in the left foot. I jumped away from the tree and looked back. I saw the writhing brown mottled outline of a snake. It looked maybe five or six feet long and as thick as my wrist. It was right up against the tree. I saw the large, distinct, arrow-shaped head of a pit viper. I knew it was venomous.
“Snake,” I yelled. Pompi and Gerhard thought I’d spotted one. “I’ve been bitten.”
They rushed 40 feet back to me. The whole time I kept my eye on the snake, so I didn’t lose it. It was maybe eight feet away from me.
One of the guides said, “Terciopelo.”
I looked at Gerhard, confused. “A fer-de-lance,” he said. “We call them terciopelo here.”
Mr. Rankin was airlifted to San Jose for immediate antivenom intervention and later to Los Angeles for surgical skin grafts. As previously reported by the Costa Rica Star, Bothrops attacks are more frequent during the rainy season, which is a time when these deadly snakes are overexcited and confused.