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The island's botanical diversity makes it a medicinal treasure trove,
the riches of which are only now being discovered.
At the Ranomafana National Park, lemur researcher Patricia Wright is proving the value of intact forests. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, she has recently brokered an agreement with traditional healers, the keepers of local knowledge of the medicinal uses of forest plants. These medicine men and women are collaborating with university scientists to identify and collect plants that might be useful for treating disease. The researchers will try to isolate useful chemicals in laboratories in Madagascar and the U.S. If they find anything promising they will attempt to synthesize the compound, in collaboration with drug companies.
The researchers are getting help from, among others, Tsimehana, the president of the local society of traditional healers. This medicine man has spent his life treating anemia, colds and impotence, among other ailments, with remedies passed down from his grandfather. The profits from any new drugs will be shared with local healers and villagers.