The Yeti Goes International!

By Loxton, Daniel | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Yeti Goes International!


Loxton, Daniel, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


Governments in the Himalayan area have always had a conflicted relationship with the yeti. What is a government to do with an animal that might or might not even exists On the one hand, if it turned out to be real it would be a rare, amazing, and endangered species; on the other hand, there's money and publicity in the yeti legend regardless of whether there really is such a beast.

In 1957, the government of Nepal first prohibited the hunting or shooting of yetis--only to then start selling yeti hunting permits (for the rough 2003 equivalent of about $4000 US)! If the animal didn't exist, then the impoverished country made money for nothing; if, on the other hand, someone actually shot a real yeti, Nepal could just stop issuing permits and rely on yeti tourism. Nepalese tourism brochures from around that time already promoted the yeti legend, capitalizing on both the monster and Mount Everest to attract foreign currency. Bhutan, another Himalayan country, soon produced yeti postage stamps.

The USSR (the communist superpower that later splintered into Russia and many smaller countries) was very fond of trying to prove that Western science was wrong about various things, and the yeti was no exception. The theory that yetis were surviving examples of the extinct Neanderthals was popular in certain Soviet scientific circles, and a commission was maintained within the Soviet Academy of Sciences to pursue this possibility. They favored this explanation partly because yeti sightings in Soviet territories tended to resemble the traditional folklore character called the "wildman in the woods," which is a much more human creature than the hairy ogres described in the Himalayas.

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