WUHAN, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists are considering launching a high-profile search for an ape-like Bigfoot creature in central China's Hubei province, nearly 30 years after the last organized expedition to seek the legendary beast in the early 1980s.
Scientists are hoping the expedition could end the long-running debate on the existence of the creature, according to Wang Shancai, a 75-year-old expert with the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. He is also the vice president of the Hubei Wild Man Research Association -- organizer of the expedition.
Located deep in the remote mountains in Hubei, Shennongjia Nature Reserve has long been rumored to be the home of the elusive creature known in China as the "Yeren," or "Wild man." It is also referred to as "Bigfoot" after the legendary North American ape-man.
More than 400 people have claimed Bigfoot sightings in the Shennongjia area since last century, but no hard evidence has been found to prove its existence.
According to witnesses, the creature, which walks upright, is described to be more than 2 meters tall as an adult and has a gray, red or black hairy body.
BETTER TECHNOLOGY, BETTER APPROACH
"Unlike expeditions three decades ago, the better technological support will help us get closer to solving the mystery," Wang said.
"We are now working together with the China Three Gorges University to develop long-time energy-supply devices to support cameras that will be installed in the ape man's possible habitat," said the archaeological anthropologist who has been studying the mysterious creature for more than 30 years.
China has organized three high-profile scientific expeditions for Bigfoot through the 1970s and 1980s. Researchers found hair, footprints, excrement and sleeping nests that were said to be Bigfoot's, but no hard evidence was reported.
The hairs were sent to different research institutions and universities in several cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan for identification in the 1980s. All of them returned similar test results - the hair samples did not match either humans or any known animals, said Wang.
Apart from the poor technological support 30 years ago, experts also blamed the "unscientific searching methods" for the failure of the previous searches.
For example, mass mountain searches adopted in previous expeditions wasted a lot of time and energy, according to Wang, as the Shennongjia Nature Reserve has a total area of 3,200 square kilometers, which has hundreds of square kilometers of primeval forest that have not been visited by man before.
The searching method will be different this time: scientists have already narrowed down the searching areas into specific targets -- caves, as years of study show that the half-human, half-ape creatures are most likely to inhabit caves, said Luo Baosheng, also a vice president of the association.
"We will have three expedition teams search every cave in three important regions in Shennongjia where the unidentified beast would be mostly likely to appear," Luo said.
The association, made up of more than 100 scientists and explorers, was set up in November 2009 and started operating in April this year.