We arrived safely in the capital city, Antananarivo, and into the comfortable hotel, Tana Jacaranda. A feeling of great relief, achievement following over two years of planning as well as a sense of excitement about the field work ahead. First, we had four days of meetings as well as retrieval of a signed work permit!
Our first rendevouz was with Dr Alain Rahetilahy, the head of control of neglected tropical diseases in Madagascar, and our primary contact in Madagascar. We finalised our research methods and arranged the retrieval of 4000 tablets of Praziquantel (the treatment for schistosomiasis), donated by the WHO for our expedition.
Another taxi lead us through the markets and side alleys to the Durrell Foundatrion office. Here we met with Richard Lewis; Head of the Durrell conservation organisation, and his team, to finalise our itinerary and logistics for work with the people of Marolambo, where Durrell work in the Nosivolo river is highly active. We learned that Marolambo is one of the most isolated parts of Madagascar, and the road to it; long and arduous!
Day two involved a meeting with the Director General for Health. Dr Alain introduced our team and project and after a couple of minutes her smile and signing of the permits felt like a huge milesteone finally achieved. She expressed her desire to make this a long term collaboration and expressed the importance for a follow up expedition.
A short trip by taxi took us to the University of Antananrivo to meet the Dean of the Medical Faculty, Prof Luc Samison. He introduced us to four medical students/doctors who we interviewed, and selected two to join the team (Daniel and Anjana).
On Day 3, back to Dr Alain’s office to pick up four boxes of Praziquantel and he confirmed he would join us for the first leg of the trip – Andasibe and Mahanoro. We decided to split the team for the afternoon as increased efficiency was needed in preparation for departure the following day. James and Anthony went shopping for the generator (needed to supply the microscopes) and remainng kit. James and Anthony went shopping for the generator (needed to supply the microscopes) and remainng kit. Meanwhile,Hannah and I took a taxi back to the Durrell office to confirm arrangements with the Malagasy students,introduce them to the Durrell team and buy a Malagasy flag for the tent!
For our final evening in Tana, Rob Gandola (Irish crocodile researcher) took us to a local restaurant where the ex-pats meet every Friday.