Stroud scientist could identify yeti
A STROUD-based ape expert could be close to revealing the identity of a mysterious yeti-like beast spotted deep in an Indian jungle.
Ian Redmond, a renowned environmentalist, was contacted by Indian scientist Dipu Marak after villagers in the state of Meghalaya reported seeing a hairy, black-and-grey ape-like creature that walked on two legs and was 10ft tall.
Locals call the creature mande barung, which means forest man.
Mr Marak sent some hairs found in the Garo Hills, where the beast had been spotted on three consecutive days, to the UK to be tested.
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Now Mr Redmond, with the help of other UK scientists, has discovered the hairs are not from a known primate such as a monkey or orangutan, or from a tiger, wild boar or bear.
The baffled scientists are now awaiting DNA test results to see if the hairs are definitely from a primate.
"I'm open-minded on the existence of yetis," Mr Redmond said.
"It isn't about whether I believe, it's whether the evidence convinces me.
"There have been amazing stories and pictures, but there has been no conclusive proof of their existence yet."
Mr Redmond is conducting the DNA analysis at Oxford Brookes University.
He said the hairs, described as "long, thick and slightly curved", bore a startling resemblance to hairs found in the Himalayas by Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary that were also thought to have belonged to a yeti.
He said: "It's a mystery in terms of identifying what the animal actually is.
"I am hoping within the next couple of weeks DNA data will be back and I can let everybody know what hair was found.
"All I can say is that we've ruled out the most likely animals.
"The DNA will tell us if it's a primate and may unveil a new species. If that's the case, it'll still be a mystery and we need to get resources to the Indian scientists.
"If it's a new species, it's likely to be small and, therefore, could well be under threat. If they're the size people have said they are, you would expect a lot more of them to be seen in the area.
"The sightings are in secluded villages where there are no cars or telephones so news travels by word of mouth.
"The Indian scientists don't get to the scene until too late and need funding."
Although Mr Redmond is a scientist and bases his beliefs on facts, he admits the discovery has got his explorer's instincts excited.
He said: "It would be fascinating if there was an unknown species and it would be very interesting to go out there.
"It would also reassure people who have seen something and been told not to be silly that, in fact, they did see something.
"When I was in the Rwandan jungle with gorillas it was good training for going to the Himalayas.
"We'll just have to wait and see what happens, and if it is an unknown species, perhaps someone may like to fund an expedition out there. It's a very exciting time."
Mr Redmond is involved with ape conservation in Rwanda and is looking for volunteers to help him with the administration of the project. Anyone interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org.