National Geographic : 2000 Oct
the first and more public of his two driving motives-is conservation. His immediate goal is to collect a huge body of diverse but intermeshed information about the biological richness of the ecosystems he'll walk through and about the degree of human presence and human impact. He'll gather field notes on the abundance of elephant dung, leopard tracks, chimpanzee nests, and magiste rial old-growth trees. He'll make recordings of birdsong for later identification by experts. He'll store away precise longitude-latitude readings (automatically, every 20 seconds throughout the walking day) with his Garmin GPS unit and the antenna duct-taped into his hat. He'll detect gorillas by smell and by the stems of freshly chewed Haumania danckel maniana,a tangly monocot plant they munch like celery. Eventually he will systematize those data into an informational resource unlike any ever before assembled on such a scale-with the ultimate goal of seeing that resource used wisely by the managers and the politicians who will decide the fate of African landscapes. "It's not a scientific endeavor, this project," Fay acknowledges during one of our talks before departure. Nor is it a publicity stunt, he argues, answering an accusation that's been raised. What he means to do, he explains, is to "quantify a stroll through the woods." poachers, political disruptions, and other sorts of threat.