It all started with one tree.
In 1979, Padma Shri Jadav "Molai" Payeng came across several snakes on Majuli Island in Assam, India. Flooding brought the snakes to the island, but due to erosion, there wasn't any shade and the snakes died from the heat. Payeng was 16 at the time, and he decided he was going to do something so this never happened again: He planted a sapling, and continued to plant one a day for the next 35 years.
Majuli is the world's largest river island, and 39 years after Payeng planted his first sapling, the trees cover more than 1,360 acres. Named Molai Forest in his honor, it's about 1.6 times larger than Central Park, Travel and Leisure reports, and has several thousand varieties of trees. Elephants, Bengal tigers, rhinos, wild boars, and reptiles call Molai Forest home, and Payeng wants to plant 5,000 more acres. Payeng, who received one of India's highest civilian awards in 2015, arrives in the forest at 5 a.m. every day to care for the trees. He also teaches children how to care for trees, and pushes for more environmental protections. Catherine Garcia