Bushmaster : Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World's Largest Viper
Overview - The amazing story of one man's obsession with an enigmatic and deadly reptile. 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. Read more...
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More About Bushmaster by Dan Eatherley
The amazing story of one man's obsession with an enigmatic and deadly reptile.
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.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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Environmental filmmaker Eatherley charts the life and interests of Raymond Ditmars, an early 20th-century snake expert as well as a prolific writer and filmmaker who became the Bronx Zoo’s first curator of reptiles. It is a well-intentioned effort that delves into the natural landscape and the unique environments in which bushmasters, the world’s largest vipers, often thrive. Eatherley traces the herpetologist’s searches for bushmasters in both the United States and South America. The book is a biography and a scientific narrative, yet the author never manages to capture or keep his audience’s full attention. Eatherley dutifully recalls Ditmars’s experiences with different kinds of snakes, writing about how Ditmars “would never forget the turmoil of impressions etched on his brain” during an encounter as a teenager, “the snake’s length far exceeding that suggested by its weight; the keeled scales lending the skin a rasp-like quality; the waxy sheen of the animal; the blunt head; and, set above pinkish jowls, the reddish-brown eyes with their elliptical black pupils.” But the work lacks a real hook and readers might find it difficult to be similarly enraptured. Eatherley’s occasional references to himself and behind-the-scenes research details reveal much about the scientific process, but they are not enough to carry the rest of the story. Photos. (June)