Abominable News

ronkinm at georgetown.edu ronkinm at georgetown.edu
Fri Sep 26 21:11:52 UTC 2003

Yeti's 'non-existence' hard to bear

Daniel Lak

BBC correspondent in Kathmandu

A row has erupted in Nepal after a Japanese expert on Himalayan
languages insisted the yeti was nothing more than a case of
linguistic mistaken identity.

Dr Matako Nabuka is a researcher and mountaineer who spent 12 years
in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan conducting, he says, research into
the elusive abominable snowman.

Hackles began to rise in Kathmandu earlier this month when Dr Nabuka
told a press conference in Tokyo yetis were not mysterious apes or hairy
hominids living in the High Himalaya.

They were, quite simply, Himalayan brown bear, known in a regional
Tibetan dialect as "meti", he said.

"This has spread too far," said Dr Nabuka, referring to belief in the

Many claim to have seen it, he said, but no one has proof.

The tribes of the Himalayas worship the brown bear as a deity, Dr Nabuka
pointed out, and have endowed it with supernatural powers. He said he
had pictures of bear paws and other artefacts from the animal being
venerated by mountain tribes people.

Linguistic dispute

But no sooner had the story hit the Nepali press than local opinion
chimed in. A letter to the editor of the Kathmandu Post headlined
"Yetiquette" took Dr Nabuka to task for linguistic carelessness.

Signed by Bha Dawa, the letter says the Japanese researcher may have
spent too long in the wrong mountains and had himself mixed up his

Both "yeti" and "meti" mean a near-mythical beast, said Mr Dawa. Dr
Nabuka has other opponents.

Dr Raj Kumar Pandey, who like the Japanese scientist researches both
yetis and mountain languages, says it is not enough to blame tales of
the mysterious beast of the Himalayas on words that rhyme but mean
different things.

"Look at all the foreign expeditions that have seen [the yeti]," says Dr
Pandey, naming British mountaineering legend, Eric Shipton, Italian
super-mountaineer Reinhold Messner and the British Everest expedition
leader from 1953, John Hunt.

"We have much more research to do on language and in zoology before
we believe statements like this [from Dr Nabuka]."

Japanese rivalry

A very informal straw poll of mountaineers in Kathmandu carried out for
BBC News Online at the city's legendary Rum Doodle Bar, a favourite
hangout of climbers, found at least three people who claimed to have
seen the yeti.

None wanted their names used but all denied vehemently that their claims
had anything to do with the amount of locally brewed Everest beer they
were drinking. In the end, it all probably comes down to rivalry between
Japanese mountain-climbers.

Dr Nabuka's press conference came just weeks after Japan's most
celebrated yeti-hunter, Yoshiteru Takahashi, left his country to make
"the definitive attempt" to photograph the beast.

Mr Takahashi claims to have found a yeti cave on the slopes of
Dhaulagiri, the world's fifth highest mountain, in western Nepal.

His camera froze in 1994 when he tried to photograph the denizens of the
cave, he said in Tokyo before leaving.

This year, he is using nine infrared cameras with motion sensitive
shutters, and wrapping them up well against the Himalayan chill.

"We'll get a picture this time," he said, "and then all disbelievers
will learn their lessons."


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