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1,200 Miles . . . 5,000 Bug Bites . . . One Pair of Shorts

Dr. Michael Fay, the Man Out of Africa

In September 1999, Dr. Michael Fay, a man with a passion, began an exploration of an uninhabited, remote forest corridor in Africa. It spanned two countries--Congo and Gabon. He walked the entire corridor with a team of 12 and systematically surveyed trees, plants, wildlife, and human impact on the area. He used a digital video camera, digital audio recorder, GPS, and 50 rainproof notebooks to gather data during his Megatransect, which was funded by the National Geographic Society and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The data paints a disturbing portrait of a seriously threatened wilderness.

Above right: Plunging into the wild for science, Dr. Michael Fay of the Wildlife Conservation Society, at right, leads his survey party of Bambdenjellé Pygmies through the Goualougo swamp of central Africa during his yearlong trek across the heart of the continent. His goal: to chronicle the region's still pristine forests. Photo by Michael Nichols, National Geographic Society.

"What I am trying to show the world, in a desperate way, is that we're just about to lose the last little gems on the African continent," Fay said. "If we don't do something now--today--we can forget about it."

Fay is an ecologist at the New York-based WCS and a Conservation Fellow at the National Geographic Society. He has spent 15 years as a naturalist in the central African forest--six years in the Peace Corps as a botanist in national parks in Tunisia and the savannas of the Central African Republic. A floristic study of a mountain range on Sudan's western border led to a Ph.D. on the western lowland gorillas.

A test of endurance and wilderness survival skills, the trek included dense tropical forests and teeming swamps. The Megatransect was the subject of a three-part series in National Geographic magazine--October 2000, March 2001, and August 2001 issues or visit

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October 9, 2001