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The Animal Kingdom of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba (+photos)

escambray today, sancti spiritus, fauna, animal species, danger of extintion

Cuba’s national bird El Tocororo (Cuban Trogon) (R), and a Cabrero bird (Western Spindalis). (Photo: Courtesy of Abel Hernández)

Many of the wild species that exist in Sancti Spiritus are endemic to this region, and need to be protected

The wild fauna of Sancti Spíritus, which comprises the wild animals of this geographical region, is surprisingly rich. But not all of these animals are safe. Species of hidden and silent life as well as other well-known groups can be found in coastal areas, caves, forests, and rivers. Respecting them, beyond any romanticism, constitutes an ecological, economic, scientific and spiritual necessity.

With little previous research on the subject, the book Fauna salvaje de la provincia de Sancti Spíritus, Cuba (Wild fauna of the province of Sancti Spíritus, Cuba) was written by Abel Hernández Muñoz and José Blas Pérez Silva, which was published by the Editorial Académica Española.

Although incomplete yet, the text reveals conclusions unknown to many. For example, the animals of the territory present their greatest diversity and endemism in the mountains, karst areas and keys, where many of the species are in danger of extinction.

The origin of the fauna here, like that of the rest of Cuba, is attributed to immigrations — through a disappeared terrestrial bridge—, that came from Central America in two different periods of time, at the beginning of the Eocene (more than 40 million years ago) and at the end of the Miocene and early Pleistocene, much more recent times.

The animal kingdom of this region features a series of peculiarities that responds to barriers of isolation like mountains, rivers and seas, among others, and to its condition of transitional area in the middle of the eastern and western regions of the island.

This region also stands out for the great variety of species, its high endemism, the poor presence of vertebrate animals and icthyofauna or freshwater fishes, the lack of terrestrial mammals and the numerical predominance of lower zoological groups (invertebrates).

“Here only a few studies had been made about birds in Caguanes, in the coastal lagoons of Tunas de Zaza, and in the area of integrated management of Jobo Rosado. Likewise, there were other investigations carried out with with insects, molluscs and pests, mainly. With the help of some biology students we created databases for more than a decade time, we collected many images of these animals, and we even managed to get some cartographic expressions of these phenomena, like an atlas of those birds that use to nest in this territory, fauna maps, and charts with the distribution of endemic and threatened species”, said to Escambray Abel Hernandez, biologist, master of Animal Ecology and one of the authors of the aforementioned book.

So far, the inventory carried out by the experts accounts for the existence of 2 335 species, mostly insects, birds, arachnids and molluscs.

Researches show greatest progress with vertebrate animals, because this kind of approach is simpler. On the other hand, arachnid species, of which there are many in the region, remain almost virgin for science.

In Sancti Spíritus there are 26 strict or local endemic species, that is to say, that they are found only here. Most of them are molluscs, whose greater exclusivity is concentrated in the Guamuhaya Mountains.

Among the most interesting curiosities of the animal kingdom of Sancti Spiritus we can mention the presence of crane populations in Ciénaga de la Guayabera (Guayabera Swamp, in the northern municipality of Yaguajay. This is Cuba’s largest wild bird, and it’s not very common in the island. The fact that all 11 species of pigeons living in the country are located in this region, where they play an important role in the dissemination of seeds in the forest, is another interesting feature. Also worth noting is the abundance of the Bee hummingbird, even in urban areas. The smallest of all birds on earth is only found in the Guamuhaya region and in the coastal belt between Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Finally, the existence of manatees in the Buena Vista Bay, the only place where they have been seen, constitutes a greatly relevant issue.

According to the classification of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there are 31 endangered species in the province, most of which are categorized as vulnerable or endangered. Yet, some of them are critically endangered, such as the green turtles, the loggerhead sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, and the hawksbill sea turtle. Also included in this category are the American crocodile, the Gundlach’s hawk, the crane, the blue-headed quail-dove, the giant kingbird, and two kinds of bats, among others.

Complying with what is indicated by the International Convention for the Trade of Threatened Species, Sancti Spíritus has issued regulations for 40 endangered species, some of which prohibit selling or buying them, except with special permissions.

Other measures implemented include a ban on hunting and fishing, the creation of protected areas with different management categories to preserve biodiversity, and the execution of environmental education actions, among others. But, of course, such efforts remain insufficient because the animal kingdom of Sancti Spíritus still needs protection.

 



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