Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, privileged natural environment
By Ana María Ruiz, Photos: Aslam I. Castellón Maure
Considered one of the most important sites of endemic flora conservation in the western hemisphere, Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in eastern Cuba is a blessed setting for nature lovers.
Hiking, birdwatching, wildlife observation and boat trips are among the ideal setting for an active break.
Rivers, forests, waterfalls, streams, plains, bays, coral reefs and mountains, particularly the largest remnant of the mountain ecosystems preserved on the island, are found in this area of Guantánamo and Holguín provinces. Its treasures led to UNESCO declaring it a World Heritage Site in 2001 and it is also internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
The park, named in honor of the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt - considered the second discoverer of Cuba - who visited the island from 1800 to 1801 and in 1804, covers 70,680 hectares, 68,430 of which are on land and 2,250 in the sea.
The levels of biodiversity and endemism of the area are the highest in the Antilles and among the highest in the world. There are more than a thousand known and recorded species of plants, with about 80% endemism, and more than 1,200 species of animals, 80% of them endemic.
Its varied flora and fauna include carnivorous plants, monk parakeet, Cuban parakeet, ivory-billed woodpecker, Cuban kite, manatee and solenodon, the latter an insectivorous mammal considered a living fossil of the animal kingdom.
In studies on biological biodiversity, several new species of amphibians and reptiles have been reported in the area, such as the Monte Iberia dwarf frog (Eleotherodactylus iberia) and the Cuban stripeless leaf-litter frog (Eleotherodactylus tetajulia), and the gray-banded green anole (Anolis toldo).
According to specialists, this privileged area of nature has sufficient territory and degree of conservation to ensure the functioning of vital ecological processes and the survival of the inhabitant species.
The National Park is the main nucleus of the Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve, the most extensive and precious of the four existing in Cuba, which makes up over half its total area.
The grounds of Alejandro de Humboldt also conserve human traces of the past. Near the coast there are archeological sites that show evidence of indigenous presence and in the mountains there are shelters that were used by cimarrones (black runaway slaves).