Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hair that could FINALLY prove the Yeti really exists

The single hair that could FINALLY prove the Yeti really exists
By Fiona Macrae
01st August 2008

He is 8ft tall and has a roar that could start an avalanche.

Despite this, the yeti has always managed to remain abominably elusive.

But yesterday, claims that the legendary beast really does exist took a giant step forward.

Scientists have used microscopes to analyse of strands of hair found caught on some rocks in jungle near the India-Bangladesh border.

The tests showed the thick, wiry hairs do not belong to any of the most common wild animals known to live in the area.

Instead, they bear a 'startling resemblance' to some collected half a century ago by Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary.

Researcher Ian Redmond said: 'The hairs are the most positive evidence yet that a yeti might possibly exist. It might be that the region this animal is inhabiting is remote enough for it to remain undiscovered so far. We are very excited.'

A monster mystery: The yeti

The 54-year-old primate expert said that he and his Oxford Brookes University colleagues had ruled out the possibility of the hairs coming from animals known to roam the area, including black bears, macaque monkeys, dogs and wild boar.

'The hairs are complete with the cuticle, and between 3.3cm (1.3in) and 4.4cm (1.7in) long and thick and wiry and curved,' he said.

'We haven't found a match with the most likely contenders,' he said. 'But there is a resemblance with the hairs brought back by Sir Edmund Hillary. There is the exciting prospect that these could turn out to be something very dramatic.'

DNA tests could help solve the yeti mystery. Mr Redmond said: 'Even if the DNA test cannot identify the creature, it should be able to work out what it is related to. It could easily be an unknown primate even if it is not a yeti.' However, he admitted that his excitement at a potential scientific breakthrough was tinged with fear.

'My concern is that if we do find something unusual, it will be from a very small population of animals and I would want to talk to the state government and Indian government so they are not inundated with people trying to catch one for a museum,' he said.

'I want us to approach this in a 21st-century and not a 19th-century way.' Whatever the hairs' origin, their owner, like humans, suffers-from split ends, the tests showed. The hairs were found in the remote West Garo hills in the Indian state of Meghalaya, caught in rock on a steep slope where the ape-like creature may have been sunning himself. In 2003, a forester claimed to have seen a yeti there three days in a row.

The first authoritative description of the yeti was made in 1889 by British explorer Major LA Waddell.

Describing his experiences in Sikkim, he wrote: 'Some large footprints in the snow were alleged to be the trail of hairy wild men believed to live among the eternal snows.'

In 1921 a Royal Geographical Society Everest expedition found footprints made by 'a wild man of the snows' at 21,000ft and led to the creature being dubbed the ' abominable snowman'.

Since then, the yeti has eluded detection despite numerous attempts to find it. Perhaps the most thorough of all was the Daily Mail expedition of 1954. A team of scientists and mountaineers, supported by 200 Sherpas, scoured the Himalayas for months. They failed to spot a yeti, but unidentifiable footprints were noted.

A monster mystery

Tibetan folklore has it that the yeti is nocturnal, whistles, and can kill with a single punch

Actor James Stewart reportedly smuggled remains of a yeti by concealing it in his luggage when he flew from India to London in 1959

Investigators believe that at least two types of yeti exist: the dzu-teh ('big thing'), which is 7ft-8ft tall, and the nich-teh, which is 5ft-6ft

A yeti foot measures 33cm in length and 25cm across - if footprints found in the Himalayas last year were of the elusive beast

The yeti's name derives from Tibetan and means 'rock bear'

Yetis resemble orangutans - and orangutan fossils have been found near Himalayan foothills

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