SURCE, Bo. – The Bolivian military used an incendiary munition known as white phosphorous to incinerate approximately three hundred acres of rainforest along the South American country’s northeastern region last week, the Minister of National Defense announced on Friday. “The area has been completely razed and we are confident all life has been extinguished,” said Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavadra Soto.
The controlled blaze was part of a concentrated effort by the Armed Forces of Bolivia to eradicate a rare species of spider that officials say is responsible for more than six hundred deaths over the last four months, with eighty-three occurring in November alone. Known as the acecho – or stalking – spider, the astoundingly elusive arachnid can grow to about the size of a small dog. With fangs sharp enough to pierce body armor, the acecho is capable of killing a full-grown adult within seconds of inflicting its venomous bite.
Bolivian officials blame increasingly warmer climates for the sharp rise in acecho spider attacks. “This species is most prevalent in areas known for moderate to frequent volcanic activity,” said Jack Robinson, an Australian-born rainforest biologist and canopy researcher. Robinson and his team were hired by the Bolivian Ministry of National Defense to investigate the dangerous arachnids after seventeen Bolivian soldiers were found dead in their bunks – all having sustained puncture wounds to their upper body and torso region. “Despite their size, these are highly versatile creatures,” explained Robinson. “I have personally observed an acecho spider traverse the forest floor at speeds up to forty-eight kilometers per hour.”
In October, Bolivia’s state-funded newspaper Cambio reported that the country’s armed forces were trying unsuccessfully to squash out the spider population before it could spread to more heavily populated cities and towns. “This is our biggest fear,” Defense Minister Soto was quoted as saying. “Our commanders are receiving reports from soldiers on the ground that the use of napalm is totally ineffective and only causes the spiders to scatter.” Bolivia has since procured a “sizable” amount of white phosphorous from the United States. “Despite the odds, I remain confident the Bolivian people can overcome this crisis,” Soto said.
In addition to providing more than $53 million in military aid, U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of up to 240 special operations troops to assist the Bolivian government in combating the arachnid threat.