a Naturalist's Paradise
the world's smallest bird
MajŠ de Santamaria
Cuba's Boa Constrictor
|Cuban crododile : an
estimated 6,000 of these remain
Santamaria waits at a cave entrance in Eastern Cuba, to catch & kill
grow up to 15 ft (5 m ) long
is Cuba's biggest lizard.
This 3 ft. one was seen on the wall of the Morro castle, near Santiago
| The Tocororo,
Cuba's national bird.
It's got the same colours - red, white and blue - as the Cuban flag.
|| very rare
Cuba has for years been famous for Socialist Politics, Salsa Music, and
beautiful beaches. So much so, that other important aspects of the island have
been ignored, and are little-known. Such is the amazing bio-diversity which
exists in Cuba. Most people if asked about Cuban wildlife, would probably think
about Hemingway's Marlin fishing, or flamingos. It's amazing the number of guide-books
which state that Cuba "has no snakes". It has! Loads!
In fact of all Cuba's wildlife species, an amazingly high 90% are endemic -
that is, species found only in Cuba.
What are the reasons for this abundance of wildlife? One is the sheer
size of the island, and the variety of habitats; from mountains and jungle,
to deserts, savannah and swamps. But a much more important reason is the
tightly-controlled nature of Cuban society, which has prevented the uncontrolled
commercial exploitation of so much of the island. This is especially true of
the crucial period 1960 to 1980, when development took place all over the world
with no awareness of environmental issues.
A third reason is the extent of protected areas in Cuba: they total 22% of the
island. Clearly, the level of "protection" in these areas is not uniform;
some are high-profile National Parks with a good level of supervision; others,
just areas protected in name. However this vast acreage of reserved land has
certainly helped to conserve rare species. If Cuba had been open to unfettered
commercial pressures, these protected areas would have been eaten into long
Here's some more
detailed information on the individual species featured here ....
- Bee Humming Bird:
This is the world's smallest
bird and lives in most parts of Cuba. It feeds on flower nectar in forests
and the edges of fields. A full-grown adult bird is 2 ins. (just over 5 cms)
long, and weighs less than 1 ounce (28 gms).
- Cuban Crododile:
There are believed to be only about 6,000 of these left in the wild. They
breed in fresh-water lakes and swamps, especially in the Zapata marshes of
southern Cuba. They grow up to 13 ft (4 m.) long, and have a spectacular trick
of leaping right out of the water (using their tail to give themselves a lift),
to catch rodents and other prey, from the branches of trees above.
This is a separate species from the American crocodile (like the ones in Florida)
which also live in Cuba.
- Cuban Hutia:
Hutias are hairy-tailed rodents which come out at night. This species
is endemic to Cuba and some very near islands.
- Iguana: Iguanas
like sandy or rocky coastal areas, where there is a minimum of human interference;
and so in Cuba are now confined to remoter parts of the main island, and offshore
Their main enemies nowadays are cats and dogs; and pigs which eat their eggs.
They may look fierce, but are vegetarians and harmless to humans.
- MajŠ de Santamaria:
Like all boas, this kills its prey (small animals such as rats,
but also farmyard poultry) by crushing them unconscious in its coils, and
then swallowing them head-first. It inhabits caves and rock fissures, especially
in areas where there is stagnant water. Although it may be seen both by day
or by night, it is most active at night. They are believed to grow up to 5
metres (15 ft) long, although a more common length is about 3 metres (9 -
This is a species of trogon, endemic to Cuba. It prefers the dense,
leafy woods of limestone hills. They are about 28 cms (11 ins) long, and get
their name from their monotonous cry of "tocororo, tocororo !".
- Cuban Painted
Snails: These amazing multi-coloured snails, really do look as
though they've been hand-painted! They live in the ViŮales area, on the walls
of the famous "Mogotes" - limestone plateaus, which rise vertically up from
the ground - like miniature "Lost Worlds". Each of these mogotes has its own
sub-species of snails.
- Cuban Solenodon:
This is one of the world's rarest and most endangered mammals.
Like an enormous shrew, the very few which remain, live in dense forest.
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