“Oriental yeti”– April Fools?

by Greg Mayer

The Telegraph and the Times have stories up about the creature below from China, which they’ve dubbed the “oriental yeti”.

"Oriental yeti" from the Telegraph.

The Times headline writer notes that it “looks like a bear without fur”. The story is so absurd, I first thought it an April Fools joke, but the datelines are April 5 or 6, so I guess not.

So what’s absurd? First, there’s the name. ‘Yeti’ is a name for the abominable snowman, the supposed bipedal ape or ape-man of the Himalayas. The animal in the photo obviously bears not the slightest resemblance to a man or ape. ‘Oriental’ is a curious modifier for yeti, since yetis are Oriental– they occur (or are supposed to occur) in Asia. Whoever bestowed this moniker on the creature evidently hasn’t the slightest idea what the word ‘yeti’ means, and perhaps doesn’t know what ‘oriental’ means either.

Then there’s the description of it as a ‘bear without fur’. While it is only very sparsely haired, it doesn’t look at all like a bear. The head and ear shape are all wrong, but if this is too subtle, it has a long, thick tail! (Hint: bears have very short tails; more bear info here.) The creature is said to have emerged from ‘ancient woodlands’, which sounds mysterious, but the articles note it was trapped by local hunters. Both articles betray very low standards of science journalism; really, in fact, no standards at all.

So it’s not a bear or a yeti; what is it? It’s clearly a mammal of the order Carnivora (but not of the bear family, Ursidae) suffering from some skin disease, likely mange. It doesn’t look like a member of the dog, cat or weasel families to me, but it does look like a civet, so my money is on a mangy civet. (Here’s info on a civet that occurs in China– I’m not saying it’s this particular species; more on civets in general here.) The forlorn looking critter is said to have been sent to Beijing for DNA tests. Darren Naish over at Tetrapod Zoology is good at getting to the bottom of these sorts of stories, and I hope he’ll take this one up.

By the way, this is what a mangy bear does look like.

UPDATE. At Mammoth Tales, John McKay also says it’s a civet, specifically a binturong.

29 Comments

  1. Adz
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Can’t argue with anything you’ve written here. A quick browse over the inter-webs and this story is repeated alomst word for word in all publications; its pretty much a copy and paste job from the “original” press release with know scientific investigation gone on.

    anyway, my intitial reaction was either something of the weasel family or perhaps some large aquatic rodent (obviously with a skin problem) although im the first to admit my knowledge of the local wildlife leaves alot to be desired.

    In conclusion, the poor thing is still an animal regardless of its sickly appearance and I hope these “specialists” in bejing treat it with the respect it deserves.

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    The forlorn looking critter is said to have been sent to Beijing for DNA tests.

    They should have sent it first to a dermatologist.

  3. Kevin
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    It also appears to be enormously pregnant or has a serious abdominal tumor/hematoma.

    However, I don’t think it’s a civit. Too short a body (although the photo makes it difficult to distinguish body length).

    I was thinking some sort of wolverine, but the face isn’t square enough, and the tail is way too long.

    If it isn’t some sort of Photoshop prank, it would be interesting to find out what it actually is.

    I’m betting “not yeti”.

    • Posted April 6, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      I think its rear leg makes it look fat.

  4. Posted April 6, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Are we sure that it’s not just a dog? It has a large tail, yes, but otherwise?

    • Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      OK, the Telegraph story says that it cries “like a cat”, which would indicate that it’s not a dog.

      • Artikcat
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        chupacabras? (chinese subspecies). Joking aside, I am happy to witness the readers’ (newspapers) concern regarding this poor fellow demise; lets think of a happy ending-for him.

        • Artikcat
          Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          her?

  5. Katy
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Its obviously a Fossa with mange, poor thing, it needs a comfy blanket under its feet for one! and urgent vetinary care it must be itching like mad with that sore looking skin! Do they have to ship it? could they not have just tagged it to lead them back to its Fossa family, they may still have fur and these stupid people will actually see what species it is!

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Fossas have much more catlike faces, but more saliently are endemic to Madagascar (i.e. found there and nowhere else), so it’s highly unlikely to be a fossa. If it is, it certainly wouldn’t have a Chinese family to go back to.

      GCM

      • Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Looking at pictures of Fossa’s, it really looks like one without hair.

        Whatever the poor animal it is, I’m sure it will recieved ethical treatment. The Chinese have no respect for human rights, so why would you think they would respect animals? It’s probably all ready dead and disposed of to cover up whatever hoax they were trying to put on the rest of the world.

  6. JD
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Not a binturong given it’s range. It’s more likely a palm civet (Paguma rather than Paradoxurus).

  7. Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    My money is on Paguma, the masked palm civet, a known carrier of notoedric mange. There are a few other civet species that could fit the bill, Binturong doesn’t seem quite right and would not be expected in Sichuan, but who knows.

    Incidentally, messing around with sick Chinese civets, not the best idea.

    • MadScientist
      Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      That article annoys the hell out of me with all the talk about “civet cats”. That’s like “panda bears”. Where the hell did they learn about animals – out of the goddamned bible at Sunday school or something?

      • Brian
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        But Pandas are bears. Now if you’d said Koala bears, then you’d have a point.

  8. Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Not just any yeti, but an oriental yeti, eh? P’shaw, that’s nothing. You should see my Scottish Loch Ness monster. It’s way cooler than those non-Scottish nessies. (Indeed, you might even so those other ones are No True Loch Ness Monster)

  9. Posted April 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Thats not a yeti.

    These are yetis.

  10. Grendels Dad
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Aside from the mystery creature, does anyone else find the bare bear, well, unbearable

    • MadScientist
      Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, poor bear. god must really hate the poor beast.

  11. Aymee
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    The only thing that would throw me off about it being a civet is the muzzle. Civets have a downward slop from the bridge between the eyes to the base of the muzzle which narrows from there. This creature has a slight mound from the bridge which leads straight into a muzzle which does resemble more of a fossa but it would have to have an eye condition as well since the eye coloring and clarity doesn’t resemble anything of a fossa and as specified it isn’t native to the region.

  12. Michael K Gray
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Is it the civet that makes the most expensive coffee in the world?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak

    • Microraptor
      Posted April 7, 2010 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but the coffee tastes like poop.

      One more point for Binturong- that tail looks pretty muscular, and Binturongs have prehensile tails.

  13. Urmensch
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Funnily enough it looks really like a creature found in Texas that they were claiming was the chupacabra.
    Preliminary tests seemed to show it was a canid, possibly a coyote/dog hybrid with a mutation that left it hairless.
    Whatever it is, it looks a sorry wee beastie caged up like that.

  14. Posted April 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Some years ago a family of mysterious hairless small animals was found in Eastern Kentucky – newspapers ran pictures of them, speculation about a new species, etc. It turned out that they were raccoons who had made a home in the Maxey Flats nuclear waste site (shut down long ago).

  15. mimi
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    i just hope they dont kill it to get information on it thepoor guy/girl is probley scared and wants t go home
    ps its nose is cute

  16. rebecca
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    ive seen this befor. its an albino civet cat with a skin disease. tests where done and if u google an image of this animal they look the same, just this one has no hair. in the article i read they said they did the tests and let it go. so it probably died shortly after

  17. Erin
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    No matter what this creature is, yeti or not, it looks very sad in the cage. How would you like to be caged?! What a sad life… Don’t cage the poor animals… What a misuse of ability!

  18. Poor Yeti
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    The Poor living thing, it looks like it is miserable..what terrible looking conditions! I would be screaming out too if I were confined to a small box like that! horrible, I hope they figure out what it is soon and then get it into a zoo or some larger space to live, just abhorrent how humans treat living things. :((((


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  1. [...] now, what about this, picked up from both The Times and The Telegraph by Greg Mayer over at WhyEvolutionIsTrue.com. The papers describe it as “an oriental yeti” (duh?) or a hairless bear (duh? it has a [...]

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