The mytical Yeti, ape-like creature of the high mountains in Asia and perhaps the source of America's Bigfoot legend, remains just that--a popular myth. But now a group of international scientists, after a day-long conference in Tashtagol, Russia, say they have "irrefutable evidence of the existence of the Yeti in Mountainous Shoria."
The conference, organized by the governor of Kemerovo, a remote Russian state about 3,000 miles east of Moscow, was attended by scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Estonia, and Russia. The term "scientists" is undoubtedly applied rather loosely. At the conference the U.S. and Russian delegates agreed to share secret Yeti data gathered during the Cold War.
While the Yeti has traditionally been sighted in the high Himalayan mountains in central Asia, the Kemerovo region supposedly has a population of about 30 Yetis that have been terrorizing local villagers for years. Igor Burtsev, director of the International Centre of Hominology in Tashtagol, says the Yeti tribe lives in the Kuzbass area, a coal mining region, and speculates that they could even by Neanderthal hominids that have survived despite their extinction in Europe.
The Yetis steal sheep and hens from local people. Raisa Sudochakova, an 82-year-old resident, saw one recently. She reported "It was still a tall creature, but not giant. It was covered with long brown-grey hair, like a bear. It wasn't a bear. I have lived all my life in Siberia and wouldn't make that mistake. This creature walked like a human or almost like a human." She said her dogs ran after seeing the critter. The, ahem, experts say she say a young Yeti.
The scientists say they are now 95 percent sure of the existence of Yetis after a two-day expedition explored the region, including Karatag Peak and Azassky Cave, and found that "irrefutable evidence." A statement from the Kemerovo government says they "found his footprints, his supposed bed, and various markers with which the yeti marks his territory." It also notes, "In one of the detected tracks, Russian scientist Anatoly Fokin noted several hairs that might belong to the yeti."
Okay, so they found a possible hair sample, a possible bed and den in a cave, and possible tracks and this all adds up to "irrefutable evidence." This is all they could come up with for evidence? This is not proof that would hold up in any scientific inquiry. The supposed hair has to be analyzed for genetic markers. A pile of broken branches that forms a "bed" in a cave does not make a Yeti bed. Nor do a few footprints that are photographed and cast with plaster make them Yeti prints and not a bear or simply a person with fake Yeti feet.
Where is the real irrefutable evidence? Perhaps a skeleton or parts of a skeleton. Perhaps a dead specimen. Or perhaps a real-live Yeti? Or even credible photographs of a Yeti that doesn't look like a man in a costume? That evidence doesn't exist anywhere; not in Russia, not in the Himalayas, nor in the United States where the Yeti's closed cousin Bigfoot is rumored to roam.
I'm a skeptic and also look at the world with a scientific bent. By using the tried and true scientific method, we are able to begin to understand and give order to our world. It's good to have mysteries, to know that the world we inhabit is still filled with mystery and can still fill us with awe at its eerie strangeness.
We have lots of mysterious and legendary creatures, besides our human selves, which live secret lives on this blue planet. Creatures like the Loch Ness Monster; the Yeti and Bigfoot; Ogopogo, a possible dinosaur in Africa; and perhaps even ETs, aliens from other planetary systems.
There is even a branch of science called cryptozoology that studies these mytical creatures, and yes, some, like the okapi and platypus have even been found to exist. But megafauna like the Yeti probably could not exist in some squirreled away place and maintain a breeding population and go unnoticed and not leave real "irrefutable evidence."
Still, it's good to keep an open mind. As Hamlet said to Horatio, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Photographs above: (Top) A fake photograph of a supposed Yeti or Bigfoot, actually a man in an ape suit, running through the woods. This is not from the conference! (Bottom) A supposed Yeti footprint photographed in the Himalayas in 1951. Bottom photograph © Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.