An upcoming expedition plans to penetrate deep into China's bigfoot hot spot, the Shennongjia Reserve -- also known as the "Noah's Ark" for plants and animal of the Ice Age.
The expedition was announced recently by a previously unknown group in China called "Hubei Wild Man Research Association."
The announcement was first publicized by the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, so clearly the group (with no website) is legit and the expedition has been approved by the central government. In other words, it's not a stunt or a scam.
No date has been set yet for the expediton, and thus it may be a long way off, assumably next year. The organizers are trying to raise money ($1.5 million dollars) but have provided only basic details to the press about the effort.
The video above from 2008 contains excellent shots of the Shennongjia landscape, which looks remarkably similar to the Pacific Northwest. The video also shows Shennongjia's "Museum of Wild Men."
According to the Chinese government, there are parts of the vast Shennongjia reserve that have never been explored by humans in modern times.
Hundreds of sightings in the Shennongjia region have been reported over the past few decades. There have also been a few large-scale expeditions conducted by the Chinese Army in the 1970's which collected evidence possibily related to the "Yeren" (Chinese word for bigfoots).
Shennongjia is rightfully described as the "Noah's Ark" of plants and animals of the Ice Age. Several new plant species were discovered during previous expeditions, adding to the 3,500+ species of plants already known to live there. Odds are very good that some new plant species will be discoverd during the upcoming expediton, if nothing else (if there are some knowledgeable botanists on board).
The BFRO considered providing some equipment for this expedition, until we noticed that no contact information has been provided for the HWMRA in any of the news articles ... So there's no way to contact them if you want to participate in the expedition, or even if you just want to provide funding or equipment. What a drag.
News articles say the HWMRA was formed in 2009 and boasts over 100 members, but the group has no website, or email address, or discussion forum, or blog, or Facebook page, etc., etc.
Several of the members are connected with the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and
Archaeology ... but they have no website either (or email address, or phone number, etc., etc.). .
Speaking from experience, it will be impossible for the HWMRA to organize such a big expedition, with or without international participation, if the group is not permitted to post and maintain an FAQ page online somewhere, at least.
The organizers have apparently been in contact with China's Three Gorges University regarding an engineering issue, but the expedition doesn't appear to be connected to a university.
Hopefully some type of contact information will be provided for the HWMRA in future newspaer articles, because the intial enthusiam to support this expedition from abroad with funding may steadily diminish otherwise.
The larger mountain range is called the "Daba Shan" (much easier for Westerners to pronouce than "Shennongjia").
You can pronounce Shennongjia better if you know the story behind the name. In ancient China there an herb collector named Shen Nong who could taste wild herbs to figure out which ailments they would be good treatment for. Shen Nong was so good at herb collecting and using them for medicines that he eventually became emperor of China and he begat the tradition of Chinese herbal medicine.
In order for Shen Nong to climb up into the mountain crags where he could find the rarest medicinal herbs, he used a ladder.
The Chinese word for ladder is "Jia".
When ancient peoples used ladders in this type of terrain, they would leave the ladders in place where they were needed, so for centuries people would have come across old ladders here and there along the upper trails. These mountains were closely associated with the great herb collector Shen Nong, so it wouldn't be surprising that some relic ladder in these mountains would have been atttributed to him, and then whole zone would take the name of that memorable, distinguishing landmark.
And now that you know the story behind the name, you can say "SHEN-NONG-JIA" more easily than before.
Trivia for your next tea party: Shen Nong was the inventor of tea.
He popularized tea not for its pick-me-up properties but rather for its medicinal properties.
Old fashioned Chinese tea (a type of green tea) is an antidote to the poisons found in no less than 70 other types of plants. Shen Nong is also thought to be the inventor of agriculture and animal husbandry -- his strategy for conserving wild animals and plants.
He is also credited with introducing the concepts of markets and trade, stemming
from the cultivation and export of tea. ... That's how you go from herb collecting
to being the first emperor of China.
Click image above for an
article written by
Dr. Zhou Guoxing about Yeren research.
Click image above for old articles about Yeren research. One article mentions work of Dr. Yuan Zhenxin
Click here for an article by a Chinese scientist about the Yeren sightings there.
Click here for older newspaper articles regarding Yeren research in China.
Students in China participate in Yeren-Bigfoot writing exercise. Click image to read more about it.
This video shows a prominent local researcher/historian of the Yeren (Chinese Bigfoot).
Yeren statue in the Shenongshi Wild Men Museum in China
- October 13th article from Shanghai Daily newspaper. Note: You must go to the Shanghai Daily homepage then do a keyword search for "bigfoot". Sometimes that will take you straight to the latest bigfoot article ... but other times you'll get a page saying you must subscribe to the Shanghai Daily in order to read the article. Of course, they do provide a convenient way to pay for a subscription online ... Pretty clever, considering the article hints that the expedition may just be a publicity stunt to boost tourism ... while the newspaper is apparently using the story to boost subscription fees from abroad. Maybe they should fund the expedition ...
- October 13th article from China Daily describes a different upcoming expedition in Shennongjia (a census of endangered Golden Monkey population).
A Suggestion for Phase 1 of the Shennongjia Wild Man Project
In order to appreciate the practicality of this suggestion, researchers of the Yeren in China should assume something about the behavior of the Yeren: They likely make some very loud sounds on occasion. You can assume Yeren do this because animals of the same description in North America make very loud sounds occasionally. The sound behavior of bigfoots was noticed by researchers in North America decades ago, and then supported by an accumulating amount of witness testimony, and eventually recordings.
By different reasoning, you can assume that Yeren vocalize because they must vocalize (or make loud sounds in other ways). Their family units must divide at times, and then must relocate each other later on in different places. If they separate even a short distance in a dense forest they will not be able to see each other, so they must make loud sounds to find each other periodically. Many other species do the same thing.
Your research counterparts in North America will unanimously tell you that if you go looking for bigfoots, you will hear them long before you ever see them. So if a massive video monitoring project is being considered for Shenongjia, then a microphone monitoring project really should come first, because it is a much easier project, and a much cheaper project, and it will yield impressive results much, much faster than a video-oriented effort.
Microphone surveillance covers much, much more territory than video surveillance. A thickly forested area the size of one (1) football field might require ten (10) cameras to monitor animal movements. Whereas, a single sensitive microphone can detect loud animal sounds from an area the size of five-hundred (500) football fields, especially in mountainous terrain.
A sound surveillance effort would require a scattered array of microphones with radio transmitters (powered by batteries connected to portable solar panels). The live audio feed from a given microphone would transmit to a radio repeater device(s) on a nearby mountain peak, which would then re-transmit the radio signal to various radios back in town, where the recordings can be analyzed. Eventually the analyzed recordings would point the project closer and closer to where a large expedition should focus, and the season it should occur.
One technical hurdle of monitoring wildlife sounds is the need to process the recordings with computers, so the individual sound events can be flagged or otherwise isolated from the long periods of no sound events. If the task is not computerized, then it becomes a full-time job for several people, especially if there are multiple microphones involved.
Another technical hurdle: The software will need to distinguish between the relevant sounds and the background noises. That's not easy. Most of the Yeren sounds will emanate from far away. They will be heard faintly from the position of the microphone. It would be any easy trick to isolate loud sounds if you only had to flag all sounds above a given volume level ... if the sources of the sounds were always the same distance from the microphone, and facing the same direction. But it won't be that way, so the computer software must be able to identify and eliminate background sounds, such as branches rustling in the wind, but then flag any portion of a recording where there's a faint howl or scream mixed in with that background noise. The software must also be trained to differentiate between the sounds of rain drops and the sounds of wood knocks far off in the distance.
The last time we looked for off-the-shelf software that could "listen" to sound recordings and automatically mark (or collect) all the sound events with certain characteristics, to the exclusion of others (or vice versa) ... we couldn't find any software that could do the trick. You may have better luck nowadays. It would be worth a long effort to ask around about this. You may not fully appreciate why until you spend all day reviewing recordings from the night before, in real time. Unlike video, you cannot fast-forward through sound recordings, especially if you're listening for faint sounds in the distance. You must listen in real time ... In other words, a 12 hour recording takes 12 hours to review. It becomes untenable if there are multiple microphones recording 24 hours per day.
Round-the-clock monitoring of nature sounds in Shennongjia would also be useful to ornithologists, and golden monkey researchers, among others. That is important for building public support, and academic support, for the project.
Phase 2 of the project would involve physical penetration into the reserve by an expedition, but that expedition would rely on the audio data as much as it would rely on the local sightings map and topo maps.
Here's a good analogy for our Chinese counterparts:
How do you want to look for your "needle in the haystack"? Do you want 20 young people to dive into that haystack and feel around for the needle?.... Or would you prefer to scan the haystack with a metal detector, so someone can reach in and pull out the handful of straw containing the needle ... ? Better to try the metal detector plan first, before bringing in a lot of people for a dangerous mission.