The Indian Army on Monday night posted a tweet that became the talk of the internet around the world. The tweet was about the ‘discovery’ of footprints of a “mythical beast” that has intrigued explorers, trekkers, scientists, naturalists and mythologists for over 100 years.
On 29 April, the Army posted pictures of “Mysterious Footprints” in the snow and said they might be of Yeti.
“For the first time, an #IndianArmy Moutaineering Expedition Team has sited Mysterious Footprints of mythical beast ‘Yeti’ measuring 32×15 inches close to Makalu Base Camp on 09 April 2019. This elusive snowman has only been sighted at Makalu-Barun National Park in the past,” the Army tweeted.
For the first time, an #IndianArmy Moutaineering Expedition Team has sited Mysterious Footprints of mythical beast ‘Yeti’ measuring 32×15 inches close to Makalu Base Camp on 09 April 2019. This elusive snowman has only been sighted at Makalu-Barun National Park in the past. pic.twitter.com/AMD4MYIgV7
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) April 29, 2019
The Makalu-Barun National Park is in the north of Nepal, close to the country’s border with China.
The Indian Army’s post triggered an avalanche of comments that ranged from confused to derisive. Many pointed out that while ‘footprints’ of the Yeti have been spotted in the past, no one has seen a Yeti till date. The scientific community has even stated that people have confused the many bear species found in the high Himalayas for the Yeti.
At the time of writing, the Army’s tweet had been retweeted 12K times and garnered 28K likes.
How international media reacted to Yeti photos of Indian Army
Asahi Shimbun, the second-largest national newspaper of Japan, carried a story about the Indian Army’s ‘discovery’ in the mountains of Nepal. It was the only leading Japanese daily to have covered the news as of 1 May 2019. Asahi Shimbun neither offered any commentary nor take into account the criticism Indian Army received for the post.
In its coverage of the story, ABC pointed out how Japanese climbers in 2008 had found footprints purportedly of the Yeti but failed to find any evidence of the existence of the creature.
“Scientists have found little evidence of the yeti’s existence at all,” ABC online reported.
ABC also published a second story on how the Indian Army was being trolled for the post.
People’s Daily China was among the first among international media to take note of the Indian Army’s tweet. The state-run publication posted a tweet from its official handle asking its followers what they think of the claim by the Indian Army.
Has evidence for the #Yeti finally been found? On Tuesday, the official Twitter account of the Indian Army posted photos of what they claim are footprints of the mythical beast. The post has gone viral, and many wonder if they are real. What do you think? (photos via @adgpi). pic.twitter.com/Bxefr2x1ko
— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) April 30, 2019
People’s Daily did not, however, publish a story on the same.
No prominent Chinese media outlet, including Xinhua News, had anything about the Yeti footprint find.
Outside mainland China, Hong Kong-based publication South China Morning Post carried a story under the headline ‘Indian Army ridiculed over yeti ‘footprint’ pictures’. The news was, however, a copy filed by news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), which, while underlining the myths associated with the Abominable Snowman, also quoted an anonymous Indian Army official saying that the pictures were released to “excite a bit of a scientific temper”.
Prominent daily Dawn carried the AFP story.
Pakistani publication, Dunya News, took pointed jibe at the Indian Army in a story having the headline “’Yeti’ footprints ‘found’ by Indian Army evokes mirth on Twitter”.
The Express Tribune, too, published a report on the same complete with tweets questioning the Indian Army’s claim. The publication, too, took a swipe at the Army’s claim.
Prominent Russian TV channel, Russia Today (RT), carried the story on its website of the Army’s ‘find’ and the various tweets that followed. While giving space to the Army’s response to the criticism, RT pointed out that Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes had in 2013 found that hair samples believed to belong to the Yeti were actually from an ancient polar bear.
Qatari media house Aljazeera, too, had a story on how the Indian Army was being trolled on Twitter for its Yeti post.
“Beast from the east: Indian army tweets ‘Yeti footprints’ photos”, read the headline of the news that Aljazeera published. The article contained information of the 2008 campaign by Japanese mountaineers and how scientists have debunked the Yeti myth.
In its story on the Yeti footprint find, tabloid Daily Mail devoted a special section to the previous discoveries including the 1921 expedition by the British explorer and politician Charles Howard-Bury, who was the first to call the beast the Abominable Snowman.
‘Indian army’s claim to have found footprints of yeti prompts ridicule’, read the headline of the story in The Guardian. The article said that the “supposed discovery was made on 9 April” and listed comments by “Twitter users who reacted with jokes and bewilderment”.
UK’s The Telegraph said that the Indian Army made an “implausible announcement” and added that folk stories about the Yeti originate from Himalayan communities “whose ancestors worshipped a large primate that was believed to live in the mountains”.
Underlining Bryan Sykes’ observation, The Telegraph wrote that “it appears the Indian Army is not convinced by that explanation”.
In its coverage NBC quoted a Defence Ministry spokesperson saying that the photographs taken by the Army’s mountaineering expedition team had been passed on to “the scientific community” for verification.
The report also quoted molecular biologist Ross Barnett, who said that DNA samples can help determine what kind of animal left the footprints in the snow. He also expressed confidence that Yeti sightings would continue.
Calling the Indian Army’s post “an unceremonious tweet”, CNN reported that the military “provided no further evidence of its find and had not replied to CNN’s request for comment by time of publication”. The news posted by the CNN was updated at 2.13 GMT (7.43 am IST) on 1 May.
The CNN article also mentioned that the Indian Army’s 18-strong unit made its maiden expedition to Mount Makalu between March and May. Quoting a press release on 26 March, CNN reported that “the unit was heading there as part of its objective of reaching the summit of all challenging peaks above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet)”.
“The Indian Army doesn’t usually venture into matters of mysterious monsters – many of its tweets are more mundane, about former army members or public events,” observed CNN.
The Washington Post, in its story, noted that “while the prints might be a fraud, the report seems to be real”, referring to the Indian Army’s claim. The Post article also stated that according to Mountain Institute founder Daniel C Taylor, Yeti footprints are attributable to Asiatic black bears.
The headline of the story published by New York Times read: ‘Yeti Footprints Found in Nepal Are Maybe (Definitely) From a Bear’.
“It is unclear if the expedition team was serious about its findings or conducting a trolling experiment on its followers,” the NYT reported. The article also carried the observations of Daniel C Taylor, author of ‘Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery’ and president of Future Generations University, who said that footprints in the photos appear to lead into bushes where he would expect to find a clearer set of prints. He asserted that the prints would eventually lead to a bear and her cub. “In every case you will find that all yeti footprints were made by the Himalayan black bear, Ursus thibetanus,” Taylor was quoted as saying by NYT.