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Mike Fay: Wilderness Prospector
Revealing the planet's secret riches

"It was like being a gold miner and flat out finding El Dorado," says conservationist Mike Fay, 51. This spring, he, along with three colleagues from the Wildlife Conservation Society—Paul Elkans, Malik Marjan Doka, and Lindsey Holm—made the first recent aerial survey of Boma National Park in southern Sudan, an area so war-torn that most assumed it entirely denuded of wildlife. How wrong. Out the window of the single-engine Cessna, the group spotted hundreds of thousands of antelope and gazelles, along with scores of elephants, waterbuck, ostriches, giraffes, and others. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that kind of natural abundance to exist completely unknown to the outside world," Fay says. Indeed, Boma's herds may constitute the largest and richest animal migration on the planet.

For most, finding the wildlife equivalent of the Titanic would be ample enough achievement for one year—but not for Fay. On September 3, 2007, he set out on another equally impressive mission: to walk the entire redwood range of California, which now covers some 700 miles (1,127 kilometers). Living in the woods for months at a time, he hopes to initiate a popular revival of sorts, restoring the logged-out forests to their former glory while still increasing lumber yields. If that's act two, we can't wait for act three.

Next: Børge Ousland + Thomas Ulrich: Polar Pioneers

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