Is Yeti real or imagined? For decades, adventurers, scientists and explorers have tried to solve this Himalayan puzzle. The ‘bigfoot’ mystery got fresh fuel with new photos posted by the Indian Army from its official Twitter handle on April 29. While claims and counter-claims have been part of the Yeti lore, the army’s claim forced the world to sit back and take notice. So far, several people and the international media have not seen the claim in positive light. Scientists have been trying to solve this issue with just a picture or two serving as the part of the Himalayan jigsaw puzzle.
Amid this fog, let’s try and see the photos from the scientific perspective. There have been several claims of ‘Yeti’ sightings. But only two credible studies looked into the proofs collected from the region. One was done in 2014 and the other in 2017.
In the first ever systematic genetic survey, the 2014 paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B studied mitochondrial RNA sequencing to see if the Yeti claims were right. Two Himalayan samples, one from Ladakh, the other from Bhutan, had their closest genetic affinity with a Palaeolithic polar bear, Ursus maritimus. Otherwise the hairs were from a range of known extant mammals. In simpler words, the samples were that of bear and not of Yeti as claimed.
Another study in 2017 published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B had a smiling finding. Researchers analysed 24 mitochondrial DNA samples of hair, tissue, bone, and faeces of Himalayan brown bears and purported Yeti collected from the Tibetan Plateau-Himalaya region. “ Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences determined clade affinities of the purported yeti samples in this study, strongly supporting the biological basis of the yeti legend to be local, extant bears,” the 2017 study said.
An NDTV report also said that Indian scientists are also not convinced with yeti claims. “Unless proved with evidence and backed with a credible scientific publication it is best left as an amateur speculation that needs to be debated further," Deepak Apte, director of the Bombay Natural History Society was quoted as saying by the NDTV report.
In a tweet, the Army had said, "For the first time, an Indian Army Moutaineering Expedition Team has sited Mysterious Footprints of mythical beast 'Yeti' measuring 32x15 inches close to Makalu Base Camp on 09 April 2019. This elusive snowman has only been sighted at Makalu-Barun National Park in the past."