Yeti identified, but it’s not a primate

Asiatic Black Bear

Looks like scientists have identified the Yeti, or as we called it when I was a kid, “The Abominable Snowman”

It’s not a snowman. It’s not a primate. It’s not even a single species.

Instead, when you think of a Yeti, you should think of a doll that children have slept with for generations: The Teddy Bear.

But of course, these aren’t the sort of bears you want to take to bed with you, let alone hug.

The suspects

Researchers are saying that the sightings of the Yeti can be narrowed down to three different types of bears that dwell in the Himalayas.  

Tibetan blue bear in Oji Zoo, Kobe, Japan

The first is the Asian Black Bear, a rather cute fellow who happens to be one of the oldest species of bears in existence. So old, in fact, that scientists believe they could also be the ancestors of Pandas and Spectacled bears.

The second is the Tibetan Blue Bear. These ursids are also kind of cute, if in the big and burly happy uncle way. It is one of the rarest subspecies of bear in the world and is rarely sighted in the wild, even by the people living in the area.

The third and final one is also the largest of the three: The Himalayan Brown Bear. This critically endangered bear is also the largest animal in the region. Part of their territory is unfortunately in lawless Afghanistan, which makes them particularly vulnerable.

Persecuted, threatened

Bear in a bear farm

All of these bears are threatened by humans. Not only are they persecuted by humans who believe them to be dangerous, but they also face habitat loss from growing populations of humans. These growing populations infringe in bears’ territory, resulting in more confrontations with humans.

More insidious is the fact that these bears are often poached to fuel the demand for bear bones and internal organs.

Most people know that bear gallbladders, liver, bile and testicles are prized in Chinese medicine, as aphrodisiacs. The infamous “bile farms” collect bile from bears in cramped cages with a tube stuck directly into the animal’s liver. While bear bile does contain high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid known to be useful for treating liver and gallbladder conditions, modern medicine has developed more effective cures that do not involve a bear being tortured throughout its life or killed.

In many parts of Asia, bear meat is believed to boost sexual performances and health. There is nothing as far as science, or even evidence, to show that this is the case. Just belief by people who are indifferent to cruelty.

Unfortunately, like in the West, there is a lot of anti-science skepticism. Much of this skepticism is rooted in the fear of change or having to re-evaluate old practices and customs. Education and empathy are both key to overcoming them.

How was it determined?

Himalayan brown bear in Zoo Hluboka

Scientists determined that the Yeti was actually three types of bears through evidence gleaned from bone, tooth, skin, hair and fecal samples previously attributed to the cryptid.

The artifacts that they tested were from private collections and museums throughout the world, including a monastic relic said to come from a Yeti paw. What they found was the remains of 23 distinct bears.

The scientists reconstructed the complete mitochondrial genomes of each specimen, leading to important discoveries about the region’s beleaguered bears and their evolutionary story.

Yeti myth likely to last

So, will this put to end the myth of the Yeti?

Probably not. People love to hold on to their legends.

Ghosthunters, UFOlogists and cryptid hunters all continue to believe despite evidence to the contrary.

Of course, most problematic, is that believers in “traditional medicine” will likely continue to believe despite the mountains of evidence and fact that their folk remedies are useless. They will continue to consume parts of endangered, as well as tortured animals, to the point that those animals can’t make a comeback. Rhinos, tigers, lions and elephants are all threatened by “traditional medicine” like bears.

The evidence that the scientists found shows that there was likely never a Yeti. Many people just won’t accept that. They’ll still turn to unreliable sightings and legends, foregoing substantiated facts for what they want to believe — and that’s probably one of the biggest problems in the world today. Just look at the U.S. President.

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