Friday, July 25, 2008

Oxford Scientists To Test "Yeti Hair"

No self-respecting blog about skepticism and the paranormal can exist for long with featuring a story about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster or some other creature whose existence is questionable at best. Given that, I present to you this story from the BBC.

Researchers at Oxford Brookes University are in the process of analyzing an alleged Yeti hair sample given to them by a BBC correspondent. The Oxford scientists plan to perform a microscopic analysis on the sample before they send it off to Bristol where a DNA test will be performed. The goal of the DNA test is figure out whether the hair comes from a known animal, or if it proves to be from a creature as yet undiscovered by science.

BBC reporter Alastair Lawson obtained the sample in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya. A separate report filed by Lawson details his journey through the dense jungles of the West Garo hills in search of what locals call the "mande barung," or "forest man."

Local yeti investigator Dipu Marak lead Lawson on his journey and gave him the hair sample.

"'The tribal people who live there claim to have seen fossilised footprints of the creature which could have existed in prehistoric times,' Lawson said, 'Then one of the locals said he once saw a yeti and afterwards gathered hair which he thinks might be from the creature.'"

Lawson cites a few eye-witness reports and tales of larger-than-usual human-shaped footprints, but the only hard evidence he provides is the above-mentioned hair sample. Lawson also talked to local forestry officers who, in respect to the importance of local legends to the indigenous Garo people, diplomatically danced around actually saying that they don't think the creature exists.

"'As you know the presence of such a creature is an important part of our culture - passed down to us by our parents and grandparents,' said Meghalaya's Divisional Forestry Officer Shri PR Marak, 'But we have no concrete evidence it exists, and there may even be a possibility that some of the evidence has been manipulated to create a stir.'"

Dipu Marak, the believer in the creature who lead Lawson on the expedition, claims that the local forestry service has been lazy in their search for the creature. The forestry officer countered this with the lack of concrete evidence to necessitate a full-blown search and the difficulty in sending forestry officers into the dense jungles of the West Garo hills; terrain that can only be reached on foot.

It may turn out to be a waste of time and money, but I'm glad the Oxford scientists have agreed to test the hair sample. At the least, it will silence any "cryptozoologists" (as seekers of these types of creatures sometimes call themselves) who would claim that mainstream science is not doing what it should in the search for Bigfoot and the like. Whenever this issue is brought up, the first thing I want to tell the "cryptos" is to look at the example of the giant squid. Here's a creature that was rumored to exist for centuries. All these reports were written off as myth until pieces of dead squid started washing up on shores in various places around the world. This prompted mainstream scientists to seriously research this creature until Japanese scientists caught one alive on tape in 2006. And this video wasn't of the grainy, blurred quality of most videos of Bigfoot. The video clearly shows a real, live big-ass squid writhing around on a hook. You see, "cryptozoologists?" That is how real science works. Tales told by locals will never be able to stand up to hard, physical evidence of a previously unknown creature. I don't think wanting body parts of whatever mythical beast being searched for is too much to ask.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The question of the existence of the yeti (and sasquatch, for that matter) has nothing to do with the paranormal. It is, indeed, a cryptozoological question. I think debunkers who deem themselves skeptics are more interested in maintaining a view of the universe that stays in their comfort zone tnan in ferreting out pseudoscience. It's a shame, really. I'd rather go on the occasional wild goose chase, than never leave home.