Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World's Largest Viper
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Raymond Ditmars (1876–1942), the first curator of reptiles at New York’s famous Bronx Zoo, brought cold-blooded animals to public attention as never before. Through wildly successful books and movies, he inspired a generation of zoologists with his fascination for snakes, insects, and other misunderstood creatures.
Ditmars was among the most celebrated naturalists in America. His reptile-collecting trips for the zoo spawned newspaper headlines across the world. Although a serpent lover, he was all too aware of the devastating effects of snakebites and was instrumental in the development of antivenom. His films and writings brought him fame, but he remained a devoted zoo employee, doing what he loved most: caring for animals.
Bushmaster tells the story of this remarkable man and what became an obsession with the mysterious bushmaster of the South American rainforest. Measuring up to thirteen feet in length, this is the world’s largest viper, and its scientific name, Lachesis muta, translates as “silent fate.” Despite numerous expeditions to jungles from Honduras to Brazil, Ditmars could never capture a bushmaster for himself.
Now, British author Dan Eatherley follows in Ditmars’s footsteps, revisiting his early haunts in the United States and South America. He attempts to do what Ditmars himself failed to achieve: to find a bushmaster in the wild. But eighty years later, will Dan have any more luck? Through the author’s own quest, Bushmaster reveals the life of a pioneer herpetologist, wildlife filmmaker, and zoo curator.
in the days running up to my arrival, the object of the trip would prove elusive. And, yet, within a day of departure, the thing would once more manifest itself. At best my failure at least allowed me to appreciate Ditmars’s own disappointments. But this was scant consolation because of course, unlike me, he did finally bring home the goods. VAMPIRE bats proved an enduring interest for Ditmars, who continued to collect, study, and exhibit what he regarded as an intelligent species, while being
of a Scientist (1934). see Ditmars, Raymond Lee, books Congo, 123, 176, 177 Connecticut, 17, 20, 28, 29, 60, 103, 113, 114, 117, 135, 144, 234 Conway, William G., 16 Co-op City, 41 copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), xix, 13, 45, 61, 75, 99, 106, 118, 119, 124, 128, 139, 148, 149, 217, 227 coralsnake, xix, 50, 61, 75, 125, 154, 211, 215, 218, 227, 232, 246, 264 Cornell University, xx, 212, 228x Costa Rica, xx, xxi, 216, 225, 227, 228, 230, 271 Costain, Ernest A., 106 cottonmouth. see
altocumulus forming, could be a squall’s brewing over in the Gulf,” says the professor. “Expect to get a little wet this afternoon.” Talk of the weather excites Ray; at last, a topic about which he knows something. “Sir, in the winter over New York, when there are streaky clouds, that’s also a sign of an approaching storm,” he mumbles gulping down the last of his food. “I am real interested in the weather too. I have attended lectures at the museum about it and check my barometer every day. It
Square Garden. He shares Ray’s opinion that the event should be as much educational and artistic as money-making. Both men are here to lessen the widespread antipathy toward cold-blooded animals, to demonstrate their virtuous qualities, perhaps even to boost their popularity as pets. Ray and Williams tour the hall, arriving first at Ray’s own reconstruction of a rattlesnake den. Sixteen vipers are coiled or draped amid rock piles skillfully arranged in a large cage to resemble the natural
reigned that time as well, Clara jumping onto the housing of an electric coil as the cobra darted under her feet, Ray diving after the snake, Andy racing in horror for the studio door. The resulting footage in which the cobra lunges at the screen into the laps of the audience will however make for one of the more astonishing scenes in the Book of Nature. The goal of tonight’s activities has been less ambitious, merely a depiction of the moonlit prowling of the fer-de-lance among the sugar cane