Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 11th, 2009
In the midst of the media frenzy this week about all the new animals that have been discovered in the Himalayas, the Thaindian News of Nepal expresses thoughts similar to my own, sort of. In “New Nepal Wildlife Discovery Boosts Yeti Fantasies,” the newspaper notes: “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.”
Mythical? Not at all. Fantasies? Hardly.
A tiny deer, a flying frog, a venomous snake, new birds and catfish that stick to rocks and 350 other species have been discovered over the past decade in the Himalayas, and the World Wildlife Fund wants us to be aware the region should be saved.
The World Wildlife Fund, in a flood of press releases this week, proclaimed that almost three-quarters of the finds between 1998 and 2008 were plants, including 21 new orchid species. On the list, as well, were 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds, two mammals and at least 60 new invertebrates. The majority of the new discoveries have already been reported in peer-reviewed, scientific journals.
Among the most amazing find was the miniature muntjac, leaf muntjac, leaf deer or Putao muntjac (Muntiacus putaoensis). The world’s smallest deer species (shown above) stands just 60-80 centimeters (25-30 inches) tall and weighs about 24 pounds (11 kilograms).
This small deer was discovered in 1997, by biologist Alan Rabinowitz during his field study in the isolated Naungmung Township in Myanmar, and written up scientifically in 1999. Rabinowitz found the species by examining the small carcass of a deer that he initially believed was the juvenile of another species; however, it proved to be the carcass of an adult female. He managed to obtain specimens, from which DNA analysis revealed a new cervid species. Local hunters knew of the species and called it the “leaf deer” because its body could be completely wrapped by a single large leaf.
The leaf muntjac is uniquely found in dense forests of Myanmar, in the Hukawng Valley region to the Northeast of Putao, hence its scientific epithet, and to the south of the Nam Tamai branch of the Mai Hka River. It is known at an altitude of 450 to 600 m — the transition zone between tropical forests and temperate ones. In 2002, it was discovered also to exist in Namdapha Tiger Reserve in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India. It has also been noted from the Lohit and Changlang region and near Noklak in Nagaland. It probably inhabits suitable habitat over the entire junction of the Pātkai Bum and the Kumon Taungdan ranges.
Also discovered was a new flying frog from near Assam, India.
Scientists found Rhacophorus suffry, a bright green frog in northeast India that uses its long, webbed feet to glide in the air. They additionally discovered two chocolate-brown catfish from Nepal that have evolved unique adhesive undersides to stick to rocks in fast-moving streams.
Oh yes, back to that Nepalese newspaper. It points out that, “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.”
For cryptozoology, the fact that new animals are being discovered all the time, ethnoknown locally, is easily translated into more interest for the search for the Yeti:
“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,” writes Sudeshna Sarkar of the IANS.
These are not “Yeti Fantasies,” but cryptozoology realities.