There may be hope of finding the Tasmanian tiger yet … and perhaps even Bigfoot. A blonde bear species that was thought to be extinct for over 60 years has been photographed in the Altai Mountains of Russia – not by extinct species hunters or Yeti trackers but by a tourist group looking for rare birds of prey and argali mountain sheep. The adult blonde bear with white claws that has only been seen by most people in drawings and old photographs seemed as surprised as the tourists. Is it too soon for an annual Blonde Bear Festival?
“An absolutely incredible event took place in our June trip. We met a wild bear, and not a common brown bear but almost a ghost – the Sailugem bear.”
Business will be booming for a while for Kaichi Travel, one of Siberia’s top tour companies, after a group of foreign tourists took a break from scanning the skies above Saylyugem National Park for birds of prey (they saw a rare juvenile Himalayan vulture) and decided to look down and see where they were going. Saylyugem National Park is in Russia on the border of the so-called ‘Point X’ where Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan meet. It was set aside just ten years ago to help protect the rare argali mountain sheep (Ovis ammon) and snow leopards (Panthera uncia) … but not the Sailugem bear, which, according to the Siberian Times, was believed to have been last seen over 60 years ago by Russian zoologist Dr Genrikh Sobamsky. While there have been reports possible dens and paw prints, no blonde bears have been seen.
“When we arrived at a plateau, we noticed the legs of a furry animal about 60 meters below us. Soon he showed himself completely and, to our surprise, he was a real yellow and very beautiful Sailugem bear.”
Bragging rights for spotting the now-not-extinct blonde bear go to two tour guides who quietly led the tourists down a steep hill to a clandestine spot where they could see and photograph a real Sailugem bear. (Pictures here.)
Or is it?
While you won’t get the Kaichi Travel company to admit it, some bear people say this might be an off-colored brown bear or even a new subspecies of them. Others suggest it’s a Tien Shan bear, another rare species that has a light coat and white claws and lives in nearby Kazakhstan. Those who want to believe that the blonde is back are urging for someone to obtain feces and fur for DNA testing or even to capture the bear for examination.
Another thought-to-be-extinct or mythical creature has been discovered alive. Look out thylacine! Here come the tourists!