The Hunt for the Monster Snake Yacumama

Yacumama: The hunt for the monster snake

Monster snakes. They’re called by different names amongst the tribal natives that dwell along the sluggish twists and turns of the mighty Amazon River: the Giant Anaconda, the Black Boa, or the feared and legendary “Yacumama” (translated as the “mother of the water”).

For centuries legends persisted that fearsome leviathans swam the muddy waters of the Amazon or slithered along its swampy banks, yet most herpetologists dismissed the reports as merely myths spun by uneducated natives with a penchant towards exaggeration. This, despite the fact that reports of gigantic snakes also persisted in other parts of the world such as the Incanyamba of South Africa, the Lau of central Africa, the Naga of central Asia, and the loathsome Nabau, the bane of Borneo.

Established herpetologists have also been reticent to comment on world-famous explorer Major Percy H. Fawcett’s claim of encountering a gigantic anaconda while traveling up the Amazon River during 1906:

“We stepped ashore and approached the reptile with caution. It was out of action, but shivers ran up and down the body like puffs of wind on a mountain tarn. As far as it was possible to measure, a length of 45 feet lay out of the water, and 17 feet in it, making a total length of 62 feet … such large specimens as this may not be common, but the trails in the swamps reach a width of six feet and support the statements of Indians and rubber pickers that the anaconda sometimes reaches an incredible size, altogether dwarfing the one shot by me. The Brazilian Boundary Commission told me of one killed in the Rio Paraguay exceeding 80 feet in length!”

Long before Fawcett’s chilling encounter, the Aztecs knew of the monster snakes; their culture turned the creatures into a god: Quetzalcoatl. A drawing made from one of their ancient stone carvings depicts the monster snake-god devouring a hapless human. [Photo]

The modern day Amazonian has a saying about the Yacumama: “Anything that passes within 100 paces enters its mouth.”

In recent decades a subject of intense debate amongst cryptozoologists (researchers that track reports of unknown creatures), the debate seems likely to be over. Credible proof has emerged that these monster snakes do exist.

Two American brothers, Mike and Greg Warner, mounted a second expedition into the Amazon jungles hunting for evidence of the monster snakes. It seems that they found it. Their findings are so credible that the National Geographic Society expressed serious interest in the brothers’ research and findings.

A “new” species … thousands of years old?

According to Mike Warner, “The exact species of this creature is unknown but we believe that the physical characteristics and behavior are that of a snake [or amphibian] with behavior similar to a caecilian.” *

The largest caecilian known to herpetologists grows to lengths of under five feet. The monster the Warners’ team searched for has a head up to six feet wide and body length of a horrific 120 – 160 feet.

Over the years, many sightings of Yacumama have included descriptions of the snake as sprouting horns on its head. This peculiar feature, mentioned in so many reports coming from independent observers up and down the Amazon, has led Warner to his hypothesis that the Yacumama could be a prehistoric version of the modern day caecilian. Most of the 50 or so species of caecilian that are cataloged do have a groove running along either side of the head that contains retractable tentacles. To untrained observers, they may appear as horns.

Most of the witnesses who have sighted a Yacumama did not spend much time studying the creature-they usually happened upon it by chance and then turned tail and ran for their lives. Since these snakes have been known to consume large cattle, a human can also make a quick, easy meal.

Habitats near prey

Warner’s research has led him to discover that the Yacumama tends to seek its prey near regions where two rivers merge into one, called a “confluence.” He reasons that those areas afford the mammoth predators a constant source of food. He deduces that the snakes’ diet includes both water and land animals including very large fish, otters, monkeys and even other snakes. A creature the size of the Yacumama would have no natural predators.

Pointing out that the snakes’ size is so massive that it even changes the topography around its environment, Warner cites another monster snake often reported during the 19th and 20th centuries, the Minhocão. He refers to the observations made by a Dr. Fritz Müller in an 1877 article about Brazil’s wildlife published by the “Journal Zoologische Garten.” In the article Müller described channels made by the Minhocão that were so wide and deep that “the courses of entire rivers have been altered, roads and hillsides have collapsed, and orchards have fallen to the ground.”

A water cannon

Mike Warner has talked to hundreds of natives and workers who had encounters with the Yacumama. He has researched thousands more. He notes that both native tribes of certain African regions and natives near the Amazon River in South America describe a huge snake that “carries its water with it.”

He hypothesizes that such a capability may have one or more of the following purposes:


I. Stunning prey or dislodging them out trees. (The Yacumama reportedly engorges water and shoots it at its prey like a water cannon.)

II. As it “carries its water with it” it is possible that it may use this water pressure to support its skeletal structure as it moves through the jungle.

III. It can also use water as an instrument for burrowing [into the ground like a worm does, hence the similarity in some traits to a caecilian].

The indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon testify to a loud boom that can be heard when the Yacumama is hunting during the wet season.


All of the sightings of these monster snakes have similar descriptions. Warner believes that the snakes that natives call the “Sachamama” (“mother of the earth”) are the same snakes as the Yacumama. They have grown so large that they’ve become virtually immobile and therefore no longer forage in the water for prey. He extrapolates upon this hypothesis: “At this point it may release pheromones to attract snakes of the same species and thus feed on them. This process may even restrict the population of this species in a given area.”

During the second expedition, Warner was successful in finding and photographing areas where the Yacumama lives, the lagoons it forms near rivers, its trenches (some almost 6 feet across) and photographing some of the monster snakes. These photographs are the ones that excited researchers at the National Geographic Society.

So, are giant anacondas real or just a myth?

They are most definitely real and may even turn out to be a previously undiscovered species. They are also, without a doubt, some of the most dangerous and terrifying predators in the animal kingdom.

Here then is the very first documented photograph of one of the world’s largest snakes. Known by the names of Yacumama, Sachamama and the Black Boa by the indigenous Peruvian cultures of the Amazon. The snake in the photograph is estimated to be more than 130 feet long with a head wider than 6 feet across:

The monster snake, Yacumama.

* “Caecilians are any of the legless, tailless tropical amphibians of the family Caecilidae. Most adult caecilians resemble earthworms superficially but have vertebrate characteristics such as jaws and teeth. They range in size from 7 in. to 4.5 ft (18 cm-140 cm); most are about 1 ft (30 cm) long. Their bodies are ringed with grooves, which in some species contain small scales embedded in the skin; possession of scales is a primitive amphibian trait. There is a groove on either side of the head, each containing a retractable sensory tentacle. The eyes of caecilians are nearly functionless, and some species are eyeless. Caecilians are found in swampy places in most tropical parts of the world, but are seldom seen because of their burrowing behavior. They eat small invertebrates such as termites and earthworms. A few species remain aquatic as adults and resemble eels. There are about 50 species.” – The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press.


The Warner Amazon Expedition 2010: In Search of Yacumama

Monster snakes photos

Artists depiction of eyewitness descriptions.

A giant anaconda (not a Yacumama) swims past a river boat.

Photographic evidence of a snake at least 60 feet long capturing an antelope along the banks of the Amazon River.

Photo gallery of expedition’s hunt for Yacumama.