One of the seven anacondas brought from Sri Lanka released to the cage for public viewing.

“Where is the anaconda? I can see only a small snake. Show me the real anaconda.” The seven-year-old propped himself up on the metal railings outside the glass cage and peered at the dark corners for traces of some hidden giant. Disappointed, he continued his loud demands to his parents.

On Tuesday, when Arundathi, the first of the seven anacondas that the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo brought from Sri Lanka, was released into the cage for public viewing, a slight sense of disappointment was the common emotion among the visitors.

“Everyone expected to see the huge anacondas they are used to seeing in that movie. Many do not realise that it was just exaggerated graphics. This one is less than three years of age. Anacondas attain the huge size by the time they turn 10 or 15,” says Harshad, the animal keeper.

The snake weighs 4.6 kg. In the morning, Harshad along with snake catcher Vava Suresh released it into the special cage, with a section filled with clean sand and another with running water. Arundathi clearly preferred to stay in the water, rarely coming out to the dry areas. She is being fed two chickens a week.

The cage also has an arrangement at the top for sunlight to seep in and also a fan system to maintain the temperature around 27 degrees Celsius, which is considered ideal for anacondas.

“We released this one first to check how it adapts to the cage. The leaching of chemicals from the paint and cement could create problems. Through the past week, we checked the quality of water by putting some fish into it and now that they are fine, we decided to release the snake from quarantine. Once this settles down, we are planning to release two more into this cage and four more into another cage in a week’s time,” says a zoo official.

One of the worries for the zoo keepers when putting the snakes together will be the practice of cannibalism among the anaconda species. The females are known to eat the males during the mating season.