Page last updated at 06:31 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 07:31 UK

NI pensioner 'finds mythical snake'

The mythical Yacumama measures up to 40 metres long

A Northern Ireland pensioner and his son claim to have discovered evidence which proves the existence of a mythical giant anaconda living in the Amazonian jungle.

Mike Warner, 73, and his son Greg, 44, believe they have photographs which show the giant reptile, which measures 40 metres long by two metres in diameter, slithering through the Peruvian rainforest.

The men took the aerial photographs of the creature, which is dark brown in colour and known locally as Yacumama, during a 12-day expedition to the Amazon in March.

Greg said reports of Yacumama, which translates as 'mother of the water', abound throughout the Amazon basin and history.

"This has been my father's project for 23 years and it all goes back to one photograph he saw of a large python which had just swallowed a goat.

Mike Warner
Mike Warner spent his life savings on the expedition

"My father and I were estranged for about 10 years, but we got together at Christmas and I started helping him by reading his research material because he is partially blind.

"The more I read about it the more interested I got, so I said to him why don't we go and finish the job by finding it."

Mike, who worked as a lithographer before retiring, spent his life savings funding the trip. Greg said they decided to start their hunt for the snake by following up on the reports of the British archaeologist and explorer, Colonel Percy Fawcett.

Colonel Fawcett was commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society of London in 1906 to map an area of the Peruvian Amazon in a dispute over rubber production.

"Percy Fawcett recorded seeing large trails in the forest which we called channels so we tasked satellites to take pictures of this area to look for the existence of these channels.

"We looked for these channels and thought if we can prove these channels exist we could maybe find some evidence which pointed towards the existence of the snake.

"What we didn't expect to get was a picture of one of these snakes in the channel."

"We think we have found something that is extraordinary."

Since coming back from their trip the father and son have shared the findings from the 700 photographs and five hours of video footage taken on the trip with the National Geographic Society and Queen's University Belfast.

Colonel Percy Fawcett
Colonel Percy Fawcett mapped the area in 1906

"Although largely thought to be a giant anaconda it is possible that this is a species previously unknown to science," he said.

"It is believed that these creatures are both aquatic and capable of burrowing deep into the earth."

"As this snake favours confluences, it stands to reason that an important part of its diet may include fish as well as other local animals including caiman, monkeys and other snakes.

"We believe that this creature may even be cannibalistic."

Greg said he and his father are hoping to attract private funding for another expedition to the Amazon in October to research their findings further.

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