New Nepal wildlife discovery boosts yeti fantasies

August 10th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 10 (IANS) Almost 50 years after an expedition by Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary to track down the elusive yeti of the Himalayas failed, there is fresh hope for the existence of the mythical half ape, half man with the discovery of 350 new species, 94 of which are in Nepal alone.

The World Wildlife Fund Nepal Monday said that a biological treasure trove has been unearthed in the eastern Himalayas that includes the world’s smallest deer, a `flying frog’ and a 100 million-year old gecko.

A decade of research carried out by scientists in remote mountain areas endangered by rising global temperatures found 94 new species in Nepal.

Though they comprise 40 plants, 36 invertebrates, seven fish, two amphibians and nine reptiles and not the snowman itself, yet the discovery of fresh species raises the hope that further explorations could unearth newer wonders.

One of the most remarkable discoveries in Nepal was the Heterometrus nepalensis, a scorpion discovered in the Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal. It is the first species of scorpion ever to be discovered in the country.

In a report, The Eastern Himalayas - Where Worlds Collide, the WWF has detailed the discoveries made by scientists from various organisations between 1998 and 2008 in a region reaching across Bhutan and north-east India to the far north of Myanmar as well as Nepal and southern parts of Tibet.

The Eastern Himalayas are now known to harbour a staggering 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish. The region has the highest density of the Bengal tiger and is the last bastion of the charismatic greater one-horned rhino.

With the WWF saying that many new discoveries waiting to be made, there is hope yet for the yeti, for whom a horde of expeditions have been launched since 1953, when Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa reported seeing large footprints in the snow which were attributed to the elusive yeti.

Though Hillary’s yeti expedition was deemed a failure after the skins and scalps it returned with as trophies were found to be bear skins and a goat skull, it has not deterred explorers.

Another mountaineering legend, Italian Reinhold Messner, who was the first man to conquer Mt Everest without bottled oxygen, claims he met the yeti - an almost 200 cm furry, gentle creature - not once but four times, wrote a book on his quest and plans to establish a yeti museum.

There have been two Japanese expeditions in Nepal to photograph the yeti and though they were not successful, the quest lives on.

Two years ago, American television channel Destination Truth, which searches for the bizarre and dangerous, returned from eastern Nepal with unusual footprints that it says could be the yeti’s.

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