EDITOR’S EYE Wildlife discoveries need more bite

EDITOR’S EYE Wildlife discoveries need more bite

A couple of major wildlife discoveries have been made recently, which really warrant further attention. Firstly, a team in China has taken two photographs of an extremely rare Amur leopard – the first time the big cat has been caught on film since 1949. Considering that only 10 Amur leopards are believed to exist in China, the sighting of one in Jilin province, near the border with North Korea, is quite something. There’s only one problem; the photos haven’t been released yet. All we have is the scientists’ word that, “honest guv’, we really did see them; promise!” (or the Chinese equivalent).

After the recent debacle when a Chinese farmer said he snapped a supposedly extinct South China Tiger, only to later admit that the photos were fakes, some scepticism is only natural. But my hopes for this discovery being genuine are pretty high, for two reasons: firstly, the Amur leopard team was sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), making it pretty credible. And secondly, it’s a real animal.

I should explain. Not all scientific expeditions this week went in search of something as real, and frankly boring, as an Amur leopard. A team in Siberia has raised the stakes considerably by finding “indisputable proof” on the existence of yetis. Yes, you read that correctly; according to officials in Kemerovo, footprints, hair samples and possibly even a bed belong to the abominable snowman have been discovered the remote Russian region.

Sadly once again, we only have their word for it, and needless to say I’m a little less confident about this one. While the Chinese study was conducted by the WWF, Russia’s team was led by heavyweight boxing champion, Nikolai Valuev. Now I’m not sure what qualifications the 2.18m-tall ‘Beast from the East’ had to join the yeti hunt, except perhaps being distantly related to one. But I doubt he’s got a doctorate in animal science.

The problem with the yeti, as with all mythical beasts, is that no scientific expedition has ever produced any hard evidence to prove their existence. So I’d be fascinated to see this “indisputable proof” of the yeti that Valuev and his Russian team have discovered. But call me an old cynic, but I’m willing to bet that the only big, hairy beast roaming around the forests of Siberia was the boxer himself.

The Chinese discovery however, is altogether more exciting. Let’s just hope that now the Amur leopard has finally been sighted, further measures will be taken to protect it. As for the yeti, well I’ll believe it when I see it.

Gary Marshall
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Gary Marshall
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