Will the Indian Army’s Yeti post stimulate interest in cryptozoology?

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For many in the academic world, it is still a pseudoscience, not to be taken seriously at all.

An illustration of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, and a cryptid. Photo: Getty Images

Social media across the country have been on fire since the morning of Tuesday April 30, 2019 after the official Indian military Twitter handle posted images of what they claim to be photos of the yeti or the abominable snowman snowfall in the snows of the Nepalese Himalayas.

There is a range of creatures across the world that have sparked a similar curiosity in the Yeti. The most famous are the “wild men” like the Big Foot or the Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest in North America, the Yowie of the Australian Outback, the Yeren of China and even the Monkey Man of Delhi, famous in the bollywood movie, Delhi 6.

There is also Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster from Scotland; Mokele Mbembe, the dinosaur-like creature from Congo; the Chupacabra from Latin America and the Caribbean; the Scandinavian Kraken and Steller’s Sea Monkey, sighted by George Steller during the Great Northern Expedition led by Vitus Bering for the Russian Empire a few centuries ago.

The problem is, all of these creatures may not be real. Their study is called “cryptozoology“, that is, the study of secret animals, which are not known until now. It is widely regarded as a “pseudoscience”, without any scientific basis.

“Cryptozoology is largely based on folklore and myths, which are common to all human cultures around the world,” says Basudev Tripathy of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Kolkata.

“It’s not a scientific displine,” says KA Subramanian of ZSI, Chennai. “It is mainly practiced as a hobby, by people who are mostly enthusiasts or aficionados, rather than serious scientists. Most of the biological sciences require physical evidence. For example, we know that dinosaurs existed since we have their fossils in the form of bones and teeth. But in the case of cryptids, there is no hair or fecal sample. They are all based on alleged sightings, which are themselves based on popular myths. They have never been scientifically proven, ”he adds.

However, there are those who disagree. One of them is Dipu Marak, a documentary filmmaker from Tura in the Garo Hills in Meghalaya. He has devoted much of his life to trying to prove the existence of Mande Burung, the Yeti / Yowie / Yeren / Big Foot / Sasquatch counterpart in the Garo Hills.

“These are stories that were told to us by our grandparents. It’s been part of Garo culture since the days when the British conquered the Garo Hills, ”he says.

Marak explains the story of the quest to prove Mande Burung’s existence.

“It was in 2003 that the footprints were spotted for the first time. In 2007-2008, a team from the BBC came to Tura and took hair samples which were analyzed for DNA in the UK. They turned out to be similar to what Sir Edmund Hillary collected in the 1950s while searching for the Yeti in Nepal. They were found to belong to the Himalayan Goral, an antelope found throughout the range. The problem is, the Goral is not from the Garo Hills, ”he says.

In the following years, there were more reports. “Every time I went to the Meghalaya Forest Department to report, they said it was a bear. When I finally told them that this creature built nests in the ground unlike a bear, they didn’t get a response, ”says Marak.

Not everything can be explained by science in this world, says Marak. “A few years ago, a new species of monkey was discovered in Arunachal,” he says, probably referring to the Arunachal macaque discovered in 1997 or the white-cheeked macaque, discovered in 2015.

“New species of reptiles are discovered every year. Likewise, there is a chance that Mande Burung exists. But they could be the last of their race. A lot of things are happening but we are not able to prove that they are happening because we do not have physical evidence. But remember, lack of proof is not proof of absence, ”Marak says.




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