We arrive in Sao Paulo at about 7 AM. Alecia got the name of a hostel from the airport info booth, and we headed there on a train. That afternoon (Tuesday) we headed out to the University of Sao Paulo to see Carlos Navas. We had planned to tell him that we were going to visit, but we ended up just rocking up to his office in the hope that he was there. And he was! I think he was a little surprised to see us. But, ever the gentleman, Carlos showed us around his lab (which I hadn’t seen, but Alecia had). He introduced me to Pedro who is doing his PhD on leaf cutter ants. Those things are amazing! We saw heaps of them in the grounds of the university, and Pedro has some captive colonies that he’s doing experiments on. After that we went to the Butantan Institute, which is a historic institution that makes vaccines and antivenoms. I was introduced to another Carlos (Carlos 2, who Alecia had already met) and a post-doctoral researcher called Rafael. Rafael and Carlos 2 took us on a tour of the Institute’s preserved snake collection, and introduced us to its currator. 80,000 snakes! That’s a lot of snakes! I managed to find one Australian diamond python. Pretty much everything else was Brazilian, or at least South American. Rafael (who was acting as our interpreter because neither Alecia nor I speak Portuguese – although Alecia’s Spanish training enables her to understand a lot of it) then showed us through the Institute’s public display of live animals. Lots of venomous snakes, some non-venomous snakes, and some amphibians, lizards, spiders and scorpions.

But this stage it was getting late, and Alecia and I had to battle 2 hours of public transport to get back to our hostel. So we headed off, but not before Carlos 2 had arranged a private tour of the institute’s venom production facilities for us the next day.

About Stewart Macdonald

I'm a wildlife ecologist living and working in Queensland, Australia. I spend most of my time in the bush finding and photographing wildlife.
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