Monday, October 20, 2014


Features

Siberian Yeti Conference Seeks Out Elusive Hominid

Russia's Kemerovo region is rumored to be yeti country.
Russia's Kemerovo region is rumored to be yeti country.
By Richard Solash
Russia's Kemerovo region, located in southwestern Siberia, is home to some 2.8 million people.
 
Plus, purportedly, about 30 yetis. 
 
Yes, yetis -- the hairy, towering, forest-dwelling hominids that many say are the stuff of imagination, but that some maintain are really out there, cleverly evading man's gaze.
 
And since yeti sightings are on the rise in Kemerovo -- up 300 percent in the past 20 years, according to local scientists -- the regional town of Tashtagol was chosen to host an international conference recently on the sought-after beast. 
 
Yeti specialists from Russia, the United States, Canada, Mongolia, Sweden, Estonia, and China are participating in the event, which ran October 6-8, and which featured a sharing of alleged evidence and a hike into the surrounding forests and caves to search for clues.
 
Believers

While some were quick to write off the conference as a gimmick to boost area tourism, there are true believers such as Jeffrey Meldrum, an anthropologist at Idaho State University in the United States.
 
He and others place their faith in rare, recorded sounds said to be of the yeti.
 
Also participating in the conference is the 2.1-meter (7-foot) tall Russian heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuyev, himself known as "The Beast of the East," who claims to have seen evidence of yetis and is convinced that they live in nearby caves.
 
While searching for them alongside reporters on an expedition last month, he deduced that the yeti -- referred to in other countries as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and the Abominable Snowman -- must be a rather understanding creature.
 
"You would think [the yeti] should already be mad [about people looking for him] but he is not, so I guess he is a good-natured being," Valuyev said.
 
On the opening day of the conference, one local professor presented a document allegedly written by a German soldier in the late 14th century which described a captured man and woman "whose bodies were covered with hair while their hands and faces were hairless."
 
The next day, Igor Burtsev, the leader of the Russian delegation to the conference and director of Moscow's International Center of Hominology, presented photos taken of a bowl left in the wilderness, stripped of the dog food it once contained, and destroyed.

Television reports also showed a Russian researcher, surrounded by onlookers, pointing out hairs and footprints found on a floor of the nearby Azasskaya Cave.
 
There was also no shortage of graphs, charts, drawings, and eyewitness testimonials at the gathering. 
 
Taken together, it doesn't amount to proof of a human-like mystery creature, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything, Burtsev says. 
 
The North American variety, he points out, are less averse to contact with people.
 
WATCH: A reported Bigfoot sighting in this 1967 film

No Bones

Still, not all scientists participating in the expedition are working under the assumption that the yeti exists.
 
Kemerovo State University's chief archeologist, Valery Kimeyev, told the television channel "Rossiya 1" that some hard evidence is needed to complete the picture.
 
"Until we have found some bones, it doesn't make sense to talk about the yeti. The yeti is not an alien and his lifespan is hardly longer than that of a human being -- maybe 100 years, but that is debatable. There must be some skeletal remains," Kimeyev said.
 
But most of the experts associated with the conference appear to have faith in what they have yet to prove.
 
U.S.-based Loren Coleman, who was invited to participate in the event but declined -- in part due to the organizers' unwillingness to cover the cost of traveling to Siberia -- says DNA evidence from hair and fecal samples suggests that some unknown beast is indeed out there.
 
He says he has been fascinated by cryptozoology, or the study of hidden and unknown animals, for some 50 years, authoring multiple books on the yeti and establishing a museum on the field in the U.S. state of Maine.

And while he concedes that a quick trek into the taiga likely won't find the yeti, he thinks the search is far from pointless.
 
"I have always been one of the proponents that I think we will eventually find some of these hominids, not by quick excursions in the field looking at old evidence, [but] by long-term funding of probably some good female researchers, putting themselves in the field for as long as 6 months," Coleman said.
 
"Bigfoot, the yeti, the snowman -- all of these different kinds of hominids and anthropoids that are unknown -- are merely waiting to sort of be found if people have patience."
 
Females should carry out the search, he explains, because much like apes, the undiscovered primates could be intimidated by male pheromones. 
 
Someone like a Jane Goodall for yetis, he says, is what's needed.
 
The Siberian yeti conference and expedition is not the first time such an event has been held in Russia.
 
In 1958, one Professor Boris Porshnev went on expedition sponsored by the Russian Academy of Sciences in search of a "relic hominid."
 
However, this is certainly the first Russian yeti hunt accompanied by a local creature tweeting his own commentary.

In a message tweeted late on October 7, the Russian-speaking hominid thanks visitors for having left their cigarette butts in his cave.
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