8/20/2005

Flight over Africa: 100,000 pictures and a dire warning - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (AFP) - For seven months, US pioneer and environmentalist Michael Fay flew low over Africa in a small plane. He brought back 100,000 photographs and a dire warning of an environmental and human debacle.

Called "Megaflyover," the ambitious project sponsored by the
National Geographic magazine took Fay last year from South Africa to Morocco by way of Madagascar, Tanzania, Chad, Niger and 15 other nations in Africa.

From June to December, he flew a modified Cessna 182 aircraft 110,000 kilometers (68,400 miles) over 21 countries to record the impact people have had on the environment.

"We fly around in this airplane day after day and your digital camera taking photos every 20 seconds," he told a press conference this week in Washington.

The gray-haired, 48-year-old adventurer is clearly in love with Africa.

A few years ago he covered some 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) of forests from Congo to Gabon on foot. His walk gave rise to the first network of national parks in Gabon.

Last year's adventure was not any easier. Flying at extremely low altitude, around 90 meters (300 feet), his aircraft was at the mercy of sudden sand storms and frequent mechanical problems.

Fay had a close call in Congo when an electrical glitch made the engine sputter and falter as he flew over a forbidding stretch of jungle.

As the months flew by in his plane, Fay noticed a visible decline in the animal population in several regions of Africa.

Across a region taken up by the Central African Republic, Congo and Chad, there appeared to be 90 percent fewer animals, especially elephants, compared to 25 years ago.

In the Sahara desert, some rare species of antelope have practically disappeared.

"There used to be hundreds of thousand of antelopes crossing that desert and we searched for days and days and we found two of probably the last of 150 addax left," he told reporters.

In Tanzania he witnessed hippos slowly dying in Katavi national park as their wetland habitat was being drained by irrigation projects financed by the World Bank for rice cultivation.
"When I listen to Bono, I listen to (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair and I listen to (World Bank President Paul) Wolfowitz and I hear them speaking about poverty alleviation in Africa, I think to myself, that is not what we need to talk about, we need to be talking about sustainable development," he said.

Flight over Africa: 100,000 picture and a dire warning - Yahoo! News

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