Gordon Buchanan was only 17 years old when he was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. The Scott was working part-time in a restaurant owned by the wife of wildlife photographer Nick Gordon. The teen followed Gordon to Sierra Leone hauling equipment for a documentary he was working on. The project was eventually dropped due to the dangers from civil unrest in the African nation. Buchanan, however, continued to be mentored by Gordon, following him to Venezuela and Brazil. Finally in 1995, Buchanan ventured out into his own as a wildlife filmmaker taking him to places like the Arctic, volcanoes, living with black bears in Minnesota, and filming the urban leopards of Mumbai. To say Buchanan lives on the edge is an understatement.Since 2016, Buchanan has hosted the BBC series Tribes, Predators & Me.
He has visited the tribe of Kalahari who live close to lions in Bostwana and a tribe who lives close to crocodiles in New Guinea.
The tribe speaks Huaorani, a language that has been unclassified and isolated.
The crew spent seven weeks living among the Waorani.
In fact, the tribe’s ancient tradition involves the capture and release of green anacondas.
By capturing the snake, you are in essence consuming its strength.
Historically, defending their territory meant against rival tribes. Today, this applies to foreign oil companies drilling close to their habitat.
Buchanan had to keep up with the stealth and quick movements of the men.
“It’s important for these men not to harm the snake when they catch it,” Buchanan says.
They have to grab it by the head first or risk the anaconda biting them.
The animal was approximately 17-feet long. Anacondas can weigh anywhere from 70 to 150 pounds.
Green anacondas can also be found in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela.
“It is simply a monster, beautiful monster,” he states in awe.
But oil exploration and other industries like logging and rubber, have depleted 15 percent of the tropical forest, forcing the people to engage with scientists and organizations interested in their survival.
These are handed over to scientists to determine if the oil exploration has polluted the water and its animals. “The top predators in the water will have the most amount of toxins in their bodies as they are obviously at the top of the food chain – which is why the Waorani people are helping to collect samples from the anaconda,” Buchanan explains.
Renata Leite Pitman, wildlife vet and research associate with the Center for Tropical Conservation, says the anaconda spends most of its life in water or around it.
Studying how much pollutants are in the water can be found by taking samples of the anaconda prior to releasing it.
This allows the scientists to monitor their movements.
“They need a way to secure their land and anaconda seems to be a great resource for them,” Pitman says.
Living among a dangerous predator and industries operating with impunity may be considered too stressful for this group of people.
“They are walking bare feet with a big smile on their face,” Pitman says.
He joined a pig hunt, ate peccary testicles, climbed a tree to catch a monkey, learned to farm among the women, and joined in on a pipe-blow practice.
And he came a little too close for comfort to a jaguar.
“They might be small in stature but they are giants in their own right,” he boasts.
“I’m very envious of their simple way of life – and despite the daily dangers they face, they are always so happy,” he says. “At one point, I had a conversation with them about depression – and they had no idea what I was talking about.”
->**Watch the incredible footage from *Tribes, Predators & Me.***<-