There is a yeti preserve in Bhutan that is bigger than the size of Singapore

Email

Wondering whether there are yetis in Bhutan? There is even a corpse!

(Source: deskridge, DeviantArt)

The yeti is a mythical ape-like creature that is believed to roam the Himalayas, known in western pop culture as the Abominable Snowman. Proof of the alleged yeti’s existence consists of anecdotal visual sightings, ambiguous video recordings, photographs, and cast of large footprints. 

In the rest of the world, yetis are thought to be nothing more than folklore. Some say the yetis are just the misidentified Asian black bear

But in Bhutan, the yetis and its smaller cousin, the Michum, are more than myths. They live, found on postage stamps, in rumours, and even in the form of a corpse!

The toughest hike in the world, located in Bhutan, is even named after the yeti: Snowman Trek.

The yetis (migoi)

Every culture has its “bogeyman” to keep the kids in line. In Bhutan, it’s the yetis (known to the Bhutanese as migoi). When Tuji was a kid, her parents would warn her to behave otherwise the migoi might come and catch her. The yeti never did appear, but Tuji was afraid whenever she took her cows to pasture in the forest.

What exactly is a yeti in the Bhutanese imagination? 

According to Kunzhang Choden, author of Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti, yetis are double the size of a yak and live at 3,500 to 5,000 metres, which is the exact range of yak pastures. It has a hollow space in its back used to carry humans away. But if you are respectful during your encounter with the yeti, you might not get carried away. 

So what should you do if you encounter a yeti? According to writer Tshering Tashi, the answer depends on its gender. If the yeti is male, you run uphill. The male yeti is hairy and trips while it climbs. On the other hand, if the yeti is female, you should run downhill. The female yeti is large with sagging breasts that would slow it down. 

More than a bogeyman to scare kids, the Bhutanese are serious about their yetis.

The country even set aside 750 km² of the conservation area to protect the yetis in Bhutan, known as Bigfoot Valley in Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. Here, the yetis are free to roam in peace. For perspective, Singapore is 719 km², smaller than the reserved land for the yetis.

Bhutanese royal hunters regularly make expeditions into the mountains to search for the elusive yetis. Environmentalist Dasho Benji used to lead royal yeti searches. He sent hair samples to the cancer institute in Washington a long time ago. The result was inconclusive. They could not tell if the hair belonged to a human or animal, or what it even was.   

To date, there has been no record of a human coming face to face with a yeti. Discovery Channel sent an expedition to Bhutan in 2009 to search for the yeti. An Oxford-trained evolutionary biologist, a primatologist, and a British technical whizz who managed the gadgets were sent into the Bhutanese mountains in search of the yeti. Armed with camera traps, videos, plaster of Paris for casting footprints, and jars for tissue samples, they ventured into the great Bhutanese mountains. 

The team came back with nothing more than strands of hair, of which the DNA could not be sequenced, similar to Dasho Benji’s experience.

The Bhutanese have an explanation as to why the mysterious yetis are so hard to find. Yetis are supernatural beings beyond human comprehension. Thus they can do supernatural things like making themselves invisible. Furthermore, the Brokpa people of Bhutan believe that the yetis have backward-facing feet, which confuses humans who try to track them in the snow.

The michum

Yeti has a cousin species, the michum (“little man”), a mythological creature like the yeti, except smaller. It is part animal and part human, closely resembling an ape. 

Kunzang Choden the author says that humans encounter michums more often than they do yetis. According to her, the michums live closer to humans and are more curious. They live in dense forests over 2,500 metres above sea level.

There is a centuries-old corpse of a michum housed deep in a monastery in Phobjikha Valley. The corpse is a metre-long, hollowed out, has a human-like face, fingers, toes, and rough skin like cow leather. Next to the corpse are detailed writings about this mysterious creature.

The corpse is powerful too. South Tyrolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner once took unauthorised photos of the corpse and that very evening, he was so ill that he had to be flown out. The Bhutanese believe that it was some kind of curse.

Present-day, it is believed that the King has forbidden foreigners from entering the chamber in the inner sanctuary where the michum corpse is located. 

The mystery thickens.

So are yetis and michums real?

Tshering Tashi, writing for Kuensel, thinks so. He posited that the takin and the blue poppy flower, Bhutan’s national animal and flower respectively, were thought to be mystical until proven otherwise. Likewise, he said that the yeti is something the Bhutanese are convinced about, pointing to the huge yeti reserve.

Or perhaps, he suggested, the yeti could be an undiscovered humanoid species, like the Flores Man on the isolated island of Flores. 

The study of faeces found during an expedition suggests that the yeti could simply be a group of Bhutanese whose physiology evolved to survive the harsh mountain conditions. Perhaps some Bhutanese tribes are not yet registered in the human DNA ‘library’. 

Unlike Tshering Tashi, some of the younger Bhutanese find the belief in the yeti and michum backward, something that only old people believe in. This saddens Kunzang Choden. She wishes for the yeti and Michum to remain as part of the mystery of the Himalayas. 

But she need not worry, because the fascination with the yetis and michum of Bhutan persists throughout the world, if the number of google hits is anything to go by.

What do you think? Myth or real? Book your trip to Bhutan and visit Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. Maybe you’ll be the one to come face-to-face with a yeti or michum. 



Related Posts

The popular mythical animals in Bhutan: Dragon, Garuda, Snow...

Whether imaginary or real, animals are a recurring symbolic element of ancient Bhutanese art and spirituality.

May 10, 2021 13:18

Bhutan's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries

Bhutan is a green country with a rich environment, magnificent mountains, beautiful landscapes, and rich wildlife and...

May 05, 2021 12:16

What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Check out Drunken Yeti Bar for the best cocktails in Thimphu

Named after a mythical Himalayan creature and perched on top of a distinct and unique 3-storied building in Thimphu,...

May 17, 2022 21:11

“Wine and women are my meditation”: Drukpa Kuenley, the divine...

His phallus was referred to as the “Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom”. He used it to guide people toward enlightenment.

Apr 28, 2022 22:04

Takin: Bhutan's national animal looks like something out of a...

The takin looks like a goat with a sheep’s body. It is so queer-looking that it has been described as a Dr Seuss...

Apr 23, 2022 20:51

Latest

News

Colours Beyond the Wall Volume II: Reformation through Art

‘Do you see the eyes?’ ‘Look closely and you would see the eyes with tears streaming down. And this is the nose,’ Kinga (name changed) said...

Apr 26, 2022 22:01

Travel to Bhutan: go off the beaten path in eastern Bhutan

You will find settlements on high grounds and isolated valleys. You will see rolling hills, deep gorges, and green pastures.

Mar 28, 2022 15:44

Features

What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on 15th May 2022 from...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Check out Drunken Yeti Bar for the best cocktails in Thimphu

Named after a mythical Himalayan creature and perched on top of a distinct and unique 3-storied building in Thimphu, lies a unique bar that...

May 17, 2022 21:11

Business

The enormous role of hydropower in Bhutan

Bhutan uses hydropower to conserve the environment, produce electricity, and achieve economic self-reliance.

Jan 25, 2022 11:43

Online businesses are becoming more and more popular in Bhutan

Even though the Internet was developed in the 1960s, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was only introduced to it in June 1999.

Jan 20, 2022 12:41

Sports

Outstanding individuals, schools and clubs awarded for their contributions to grassroots football

On December 22, 2021, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), a bronze member of the AFC Grassroots Charter,presented awards to unsung heroes...

Jan 11, 2022 14:15

Bhutan's national women cricket team won ICC Women's T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier 2021 opening match

The United Arab Emirates is currently hosting the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier. The two ICC Academy grounds in Dubai Sports City...

Nov 23, 2021 11:13

Travel

Trace the footsteps of the Divine Madman on this hiking trail

There is no better way to connect spiritually with Drukpa Kuenley, the “Divine Madman”. The trail will take you downhill for about four...

Apr 28, 2022 22:30

Been to Bhutan before? Stand a chance to win FREE flight tickets to back to Bhutan!

If you’ve been to Bhutan before, we want to hear your story.

Apr 15, 2022 19:49

Lifestyle

The hot springs of Bhutan are believed to have miraculous healing properties

The Bhutanese believe that hot springs are a blessing from the Buddha.

Apr 08, 2022 21:52

What are the five main fruits in a Bhutanese fruit bowl 'thokay'?

There are usually five fruits that make it to the 'thokay' (fruit bowl) placed on the altars or in front of the King, Chief Abbot and Lamas.

Mar 08, 2022 15:54

COVID-19

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!