Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Duke Lemur Center's Direct Connection to Madagascar - Charlie Welch

Travel Notes in Madagascar
From Duke Lemur Center's Conservation Manager, Charlie Welch

Fri 1/29/10 – Arrived in the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo (Tana) at 4:00 AM after leaving Durham around noon on Wednesday. It is a long tiring flight, but at least only 1 stop between Paris and Tana. In any case, as sleep mostly escapes me on flights, I arrived tired, yet with a list of things needing to be done before the weekend. So, several cups of coffee and onward.

It seems so familiar to be back here in Madagascar – crowing rosters starting up in the wee hours of the morning, the smell of eucalyptus smoke from cooking fires, and the thousands of pedestrians streaming along both sides of the city streets. Tana looks a little more worn, and worn down than usual. These are tough economic times for most Malagasy, and it shows.

Today’s tasks included setting up meetings, buying a cheap cell phone and prepaid minutes (a much better deal than we get in the US with our required contracts!), purchasing Air Madagascar tickets for internal flights, and having a meeting with staff of the Madagascar national zoo, Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza (PBZT). The latter meeting was to discuss potential collaboration on veterinary issues. The DLC's recent veterinary trainees, Haja and Hery, participated in that meeting. It was good to see them, and they send their best wishes to all on the DLC staff. We followed the meeting with a tour of the zoo. After more discussion and catching up with Haja and Hery over a coke in a nearby hotely, and my day was finished. I gladly collapsed into my hotel bed and slept wonderfully until I came full awake 3 hours later. Wonderful jetlag…

Sat 1/30 – Not much that can be done over the weekend days, so writing and studying the conservation site report. Succeeded in talking to some friends and colleagues on my brand new phone, but must confess to struggling with the texting. Ivoloina staff veterinarian Fidy Rasambainarivo is in Tana for several meetings, and he stopped by the hotel to pick up one of my 2 pieces of luggage to take it back to Tamatave with him tomorrow. The bag is full of things for Tamatave only, so no need for me to tote it all over northern Madagascar. My last stop is Tamatave. Was great to sit down with Fidy and catch up, and very kind of him to take the bag off my hands.

MFG project manager An Bollen is also in town for meetings, and she is here with Ingrid Porton, vice chair of the MFG who has also just recently arrived from the US. Had a nice dinner with them and also Richard Lewis, the director of Durrell Conservation programs in Madagascar. Finally a chance to down a few THB beers! A very nice evening.

Sun 1/31 – Still having that annoying jetlag sleep pattern. More time spent writing and studying the Makirovana conservation report.

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