Sachamama, Karl Shuker

Drawing by Karl Shuker of a sachamama-like animal found on a piece of 16th Century Peruvian pottery.

Country reported: Peru

The sachamama (Quechuan: "mother of the earth"[1]) is a cryptid reported from the Peruvian Amazon, described as an enormous snake with a snail-like shell and horns.[1][2]


Maximo Inuacari described it as resembling a huge black cylinder and leaving a 1600 foot long, 30 foot wide trench in its wake. Luis Iluma described it as a having a long black snake-like body bearing a shell-like structure in the middle of its back, a muzzle, two tentacles like elephant trunks, and two 3-ft-long 'ears' on its head.[2] Reuters and George Eberhart both give the length of the Neuva Tacna animal as 132 feet and its width as 15 feet.[1]

According to folklore, the sachamama appears only very rarely, and can remain in a state of torpor underwater for many years. When it wakes, however, it can suck prey into its mouth from quite a distance, but cannot pursue prey through the jungle because its progress is impeded by its large shell.[2]



There are examples of ceramic pots and saucers from Peru's ancient Moche culture, dating back over 1500 years, which depict a large black snake- or slug-like beast with tentacles and a conch-like shell on its back. Arnost Vasícek also documented some 16th Century examples of Peruvian pottery depicting a very similar animal, which also sported a forked tongue and two pairs of snail-like, bulbous-tipped feelers; one pair at the base of its snout, and the other pair at its snout's tip.[2]

Nelly Armos and Carlos Quinto collected local folklore on the sachamama.[2]

A 19th Century missionary named de Vernazz claimed to have shot a sachamama which was over 45 feet long and 6 feet thick while boating on the Pastaza River bordering Peru and Ecuador:[Expansion needed][2][3]

"A look at this monster can outweigh, terrify and force into fearful respect even the bravest men. His inhalation is so great that he will suck up every dog ​​or bird that appears at a distance of six to twelve meters - depending on its size.
"The monster I shot from my canoe on the river Pastaza was two meters thick and fifteen meters long, but the Indians assured me that there were much larger animals of this species in the area, three to four meters in circumference and thirty to forty metres long."


Nueva Tanca incident trail

Photograph of the 1600 foot trench left by the animal.

Nueva Tacna incident river

Photograph of trees felled by the animal as it entered the river.

On 14 August 1997, villagers in Nueva Tacna near Iquitos heard a loud rumbling sound reverberating from a patch of jungle, as if something large and heavy were roaming through it. Maximo Inuacari, sitting in his boat on the Napo River nearby, began to paddle away, and as he did so he claimed that a 'monster' emerged from the jungle onto the shore behind him, having uprooted many trees and gouged a 1600-ft-long, 30-ft-wide trench during its noisy progression towards the river. When it finally made it to the river it created a whirlpool which sunk several boats. At least one other man, Luis Iluma, claimed to have seen the animal:[3]

"It looked terrible. The long black serpentine body had a huge shell or carapace in the middle that was cut off at several edges in several places. The head was fitted with feathers like an elephant's trunk, it had very large ears and an unmistakable mouth, ending with a blunt rib."

According to Inuacari, however, it was too dark to make out any details:[3]

"There was a lot of darkness, and although we were very close, we could not recognize the details of the appearance. We only know that the animal was like a snake with its fuselage. But he could not tell whether he was crawling on his stomach or walking on his short legs like a caiman."

Arnošt Vašíček wrote that the testimonies of the two men do not necessarily contradict each other, as Iluma would have seen the animal on the horizon, sillhouetted by the setting sun.[3]

The destruction left in the animals wake was photographed, and the military was called in by the mayor to survey the damage.[2][4][1][5]


Sachamama Tim Morris

Depiction of the sachamama as a long-necked turtle by Tim Morris.

Peruvian radio networks suggested that "foolish locals" had mistakenly identified heavy construction machinery as a monster, but local authorities quickly pointed out that the dense jungle of the area does not allow access to such large equipment.[4]

Some have speculated that the events of 14 August could be explained by floodwater, a wind vortex, or an earthquake. Peruvian scientist Nixon Reugifa concluded that the damage was caused by flooding created by heavy rains, but recanted after more eyewitness testimonies came to light and revealed the path of destruction to be far too selective to be explained by a natural disaster. None of the fishermen recalled feeling any sensation of wind movement during the incident.[2]

Karl Shuker notes that, if the sachamama is real, it is unlikely to be a snake due to its shell and its "tentacles". He cautiously speculated that it may be a gigantic species of mollusc.[2] Another possibility is that it is a form of gigantic long-necked turtle similar to the mata-mata.[2]

Arnošt Vašíček connects the sachamama with the minhocão, an armoured serpentine animal reported from Brazil and Central America.[3]

Similar cryptidsEdit

Do you think the Sachamama exists? If so, what do you think the Sachamama is?

The poll was created at 07:16 on December 20, 2018, and so far 2 people voted.
  • Giant anacondas, reported from across the Amazon and northern Argentina.
  • The minhocão, an enormous burrowing snake-like animal with armadillo-like scales, reported from the Central Amazon and Central America.

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 ShukerNature: SACHAMAMA - A SNAKE IN A SHELL?
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Vašíček, Arnošt (1996) Planeta záhad
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Monster Boa Size of Two Buses Reported by Terrified Village" Reuters, 20 August 1997
  5. Michaels, Denver Colossal Snakes of the Amazon