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There are many theories as to the nature and origin of the Migo (known by the Nepalese and Tibetans as the Yeti, and to the Chinese and Soviets as the Alma). According to the 18th century scholar, Jam-dpal-rdo-rje, "The 'wild man' lives in rugged mountains. Its shape is similar to that of a human. It has extraordinary dexterity and strength."

In Bhutan, few people, not even the Royal family, doubt the existence of the Migo. The skepticism of Western scientists is seen merely as yet another manifestation of Western arrogance.

Not long after the first Europeans traveled to the Himalayas did reports begin to arrive of "the wild man." In 1832, the Court of Nepal's first British Resident, B.H. Hodson, reported that his native hunters had been frightened by a "wild man" who "moved erectly, was covered in long, dark hair, and had no tail."

Mountaineers have often come into contact with the Migo. Indeed, most sightings and footprints have been collected during the course of Himalayan climbing -- when the primary aim was to conquer mountains, not discover new species.

In 1923, British major Alan Cameron was climbing with his party toward the summit of Everest when his Tibetan guides pointed to a line of living creatures, all moving along a cliff face high above the snowline. They reached the area two days later and found huge, humanoid footprints in the snow.

In 1949, Sherpa Tensing, who with Edmund Hillary made the first successful ascent of Everest, claimed to have seen a Yeti playing in the snow near a monastery. Eric Shipton, author of The Six Mountain Travel Books, recounts the following story:

"Tensing, who had no doubt whatever that the creatures (for there had been at least two) that had made the tracks were 'Yetis' or wild men, told me that two years before, he and a number of other Sherpas had seen one of them at a distance of about 25 yards at Thyangboche. He described it as half man-half beast, standing about 5 feet 6 inches, with a tall, pointed head, its body covered with reddish brown hair, but with a hairless face. When we reached Kathmandu at the end of November I had him cross-examined in Nepali ... He left no doubt as to his sincerity. Whatever it was that he had seen, he was convinced that it was neither a bear nor a monkey, both of which animals he was, of course, very familiar."

More recently, in 1986, the famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner had a close-up sighting of a Yeti while leading an expedition in Nepal.

So what might the Migo be? Evidence from sightings or footprints fall into two different size groups. It could be that the Migo is a species of primate which, like the orangutan, shows enormous differences in size between male and female. Or, as suggested recently by scientists, there could be two species living in similar areas.

This echoes the theory put forward in the 1950s that the Migo is a living relative of either Gigantopithecus, a giant, ancestral hominid that ranged across Asia, or a descendant of the smaller Neanderthal Man.


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