RI 07 CUBA
Peninsula de Zapata
Cuba’s Zapata Swamp only 160km south of Havana, it was a hideout for pirates a little over three centuries ago, and nowadays those same waterways are still protecting species of plants and animals found nowhere else or almost disappeared in other parts of Cuba. This region with its 4,500 km2 is part of the same class of wetlands comparable to the Everglades and the Pantanal, and holds deciduous and semi-deciduous forests essential for the survival of over 80% of Cuba’s endemic birds.
Sinkholes, flooded caverns, and dissected surface rivers punctuate the limestone bedrock where most of the peninsula’s vegetation grows on peaty soils. Zapata Swamp is a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve, a Ramsar site, and a national park, but a lot of the peninsula forest remains without protection, where logging remains uncheck and invasive plant species are creeping inside the park, and the surrounding agricultural land are potential pollutants sources.
The inventory aimed to document animal and plant groups, especially less known than birds, and link the status of these organisms to threats that continue to grow in the Zapata Peninsula. Current conservation efforts need more intensive management, especially outside the formally protected parts of the peninsula, to protect this Caribbean gem.
Photo by John W. Fitzpatrick