Footprints of the elusive Yeti unravelled, discussed at Bhutan Lit Fest

Aug 25, 2018
By Saket Suman
The mystery surrounding the Himalayan Yeti attracts scores of explorers every year to the snow-capped mountains, but few return with answers. Daniel C. Taylor, who has spent about six decades of his life in search of the elusive creature, shared his findings, insights and rare photographs at the Mountain Echoes literary festival
in Thimphu on Friday.
Taylor was participating in a session titled "Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery" along with festival co-director Tshering Tashi and Bhutanese journalist Karma Singe Dorji.
The session began with Tashi asking the audience if they believed in the Yeti and a vast majority of the audience raised their hands in affirmation.
Tashi said there have been at least four organised expeditions in search of the Yeti in Bhutan. But all of them had been carried out by people from the West, who regarded it as a fascinating subject.
"I have been working on this puzzle for sixty years of my life. The first and the most significant point of reference is that all of these expeditions were led by Westerners and that, I believe, is why it has never been simplified.
"The core cultural understanding of the local ecology is the real answer to the Yeti myth," said the 73-year-old scholar.
He shared that in the 1940s, his parents came to India and set up a hospital there. Therefore, as a child growing up in the mountains, legends of the Yeti made regular appearances in his life. This set in motion a quest to find the existence of the Yeti as the young Taylor thought that if there were footprints then there must be the Yeti too.
For decades that followed, Taylor ventured across the Himalayas, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh and from Nepal to Bhutan, in search of the elusive creature.
Sharing rare images from his expeditions at the session, Taylor referred to one of the first photographs of the Yeti footprint that was originally taken in 1951.
"It is strange that so many of the Yeti footprints have been found by Western explorers who failed to climb the Mt. Everest," he smirked.
But Taylor came to realise that if Yeti was to be found at all, it would not be in the snow-capped mountains but in the jungles below it. "Because it would need food to survive," he said.
And so he changed the routes of his expedition and led a large troupe in search of the elusive creature. He came across a wild bear, tranquilised it and matched it to the footprints that had been captured earlier.
Dissecting the images point by point, he told the audience here that those footprints may have been made by the bear when it was climbing upwards on the snow-capped mountain as its leg would slip behind, increasing the size of the footprint than the original foot of the bear.
Taylor, however, contended that there are many mysteries in the Himalayan mountains and said that the nature has its own way of unravelling mysteries.
"I lived my life in the pursuit of the Yeti's footprints but I began to question myself that isn't the carbon footprints of humans bigger than Yetis," he said, before sharing details of the various environmental conservation programmes he has led in the sub-continent.
"The Yeti does not need a passport. It does not care about the tensions between India and China. The ecosystem is one, it is not about one country or one region," he said.
Taylor said that the best way to bring "a sunrise on the human civilization" is by protecting the environment while his co-panellist Tashi said that "the arrogance of human beings" is endangering the planet.
Taylor has authored "Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery" which explores why people are so fascinated with the possibility that a wild hominoid might still reclusively live. 
The book also recounts the extraordinary story of one man's conservation impact -- the quest for the mysterious animal encouraged him to create two massive national parks around Mount Everest, one in China and the other in Nepal.
Mountain Echoes literary festival, with a strong focus on environmental conservation, is now in its ninth edition and will reach its culmination on Saturday.

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