Thursday, November 5, 2015

Yeti Sightings in Decline

BBC has an article up today about the decline of yeti sightings in Bhutan, once an area in which such sightings were common. It seems that as Bhutan has become a more modern country with electricity and related infrastructure, fewer people spend time in the forest foraging or gathering firewood to heat their homes. Thus, the article theorizes that they have fewer opportunities to encounter the creature.

The last person in Chendebji to have seen possible evidence of the yeti is a younger farmer called Norbu. The first time was 20 years ago, he says, when he was 18. He was in the mountains with his cattle when he saw a large footprint and the body marks of a yeti in the snow. The mere sight of them made his hair stand on end. Then, five years later, Norbu says he discovered something very unusual - a lair made out of intricately woven sticks of bamboo.

"The yeti had broken the bamboo trees, folded them into a semi-circular shape, with the two edges of the bamboo in the ground. He had then slept inside the den. I could see the marks left by the yeti inside the nest," he says.

News of the lair travelled beyond the village and two months later, two men arrived as Norbu was making wood shingles for his house. They asked to see the lair, so he agreed to stop work and show them. Because it was so far away, the three of them had to spend the night in the yeti's nest. The trip passed off peacefully. That was the last time anyone in Chendebji saw traces of the yeti.

Now, says Norbu, people don't need to go up to the mountain to collect wood or graze their animals. They cook on gas rings, and farming patterns have changed. The villagers spend more of their time growing cash crops such as potatoes and oil seeds.

As I've mentioned in the past, I found Reinhold Messner's My Quest for the Yeti to be pretty convincing. He points out that much of the lore about the yeti comes from non-native speakers of local languages misinterpreting descriptions of the creature as some sort of large ape, when in fact the term "yeti" refers to a known animal, the Himalayan bear.

It would be interesting to compare the number of sightings in Bhutan with fluctuations in the local Himalayan bear population. My guess is that they would line up pretty well.

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