Archive for September, 2011
Diablo the anaconda has finally arrived.
He wasn’t thrilled about being moved, and released an indescribable smell to express his displeasure, but he is now safely installed in his enclosure on the third floor, as part of an installation by Juan Downey titled “Anaconda Map of Chile.” It’s an important piece, and it’s never been shown in the U.S. the way the artist intended; because of Downey’s point about the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s role in the downfall of Salvador Allende and the installation of dictator Augusto Pinochet, the piece was censored more than once.
Diablo is a 6-foot Eunectes notaeus (Yellow Anaconda), on loan to the Museum from the Phoenix Herpetological Society, a non-profit reptile education and conservation group. He was rescued by his current owner, Russ Johnson, who is president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society, when he was just about year old. Diablo’s enclosure is heated, and is one-and-a-half times larger than his cage at the Society, giving him more room to stretch out, although he likes to spend most of his time coiled up. During his stay at the Museum, two staff members of the PHS will come regularly to care for him.
Native to tropical South America, anacondas are members of the boa constrictor family and are the largest of the snakes of the Americas. Yellow Anacondas live about 15 to 20 years and grow to be 8 to 12 feet long. Diablo is a young snake, probably 8 or 9 years old, and his diet consists of rats. In the wild, anacondas eat fish, alligators, birds, small deer and large rodents. The anaconda can unhinge its lower jaw, allowing it to swallow animals whole after squeezing them to death with its powerful body.
At the time of his rescue, Diablo belonged to a young man who had purchased him from a local pet store but didn’t know anything about anacondas. Diablo had grown very sick, so someone contacted Russ, who nursed Diablo back to health. It took almost two years. “It was a labor of love,” Russ says.
Now Diablo’s skin is the right color and is iridescent, as it should be. Russ notes that under normal circumstances, people should not own anacondas, but because Diablo was born in captivity, it is against international regulations to release him back into the wild. So Russ will always take care of him.
The museum is grateful to Russ and to the Phoenix Herpetological Society for helping us make sure that Diablo is well cared for during his stay at the ASU Art Museum.
Tonight at 6 p.m., Marilys Belt de Downey, director of the Juan Downey Foundation, will speak with Curator Valerie Smith about her late husband’s work, including “Anaconda Map of Chile,” followed by our Season Opening Reception from 7 to 9 p.m. We hope you’ll come visit Diablo during the course of the season, to see the significant role he plays in the Juan Downey retrospective here at the Museum. If you do, we ask only that you please refrain from touching or tapping on his enclosure. He won’t enjoy that. As a preschool teacher we know tells her students, “Touch with your eyes.”