Cuba´s Protected Areas
By Alfredo Boada Mola / Photos: PUBLICITUR
About 20% of Cuba´s national territory constitutes protected areas, with the objective of conserving and promoting the sustainable use of their biodiversity, forests and other natural resources.
Presently on the Island a focus is being put on strengthening scientific and technical capacities to protect designated areas and plans for management of these areas are being developed with a unique methodology .
The National Center of Protected Areas (CNAP) of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment has the mission of being the governing center for the planning and integral management for the conservation of the natural, historical and cultural values of the ecosystems most representative of the country.
Roughly 25% of the country´s insular platform constitutes protected areas, 17% of which is land surface area, pointed out Dr.Maritza García, CNAP´s Director. “In the world the land surface area covered by protected areas is only about 13%, while only about 1.7% are ocean areas”, she adds.
Eighty-four years ago the country declared its first protected area, Parque Nacional Pico Cristal in the Eastern province of Holguín. Today a dozen of these types of spaces have international recognition, among them the Biosphere Reserve of Guanahacabibes, Sierra del Rosario, Ciénaga de Zapata, Buenavista, Baconao and Cuchillas del Toa, as well as the national parks Alejandro de Humboldt and Desembarco del Granma.
A total of 120 protected areas are effectively managed by competent personnel from the Department of Science, Technology and Environment, the National Company for the Protection of the Flora and Fauna, and other entities. One of the most prominent places in Cuba for its flora and fauna is Ciénaga de Zapata National Park in Matanzas. It is a swampy ecosystem declared by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
It is estimated that in Ciénaga de Zapata National Park exist about one thousand species of indigenous plants, 30 of these endemic and 14 in danger of extinction.
The region offers refuge to thousands of migratory birds from North America, roughly 368 species. Of these, 70% nest in this area: the parrot (Amazon leucocephala), the torcaza (Columba inornata), the catey (Aratinga euops), the tocororo (Priotelus temnurus), the cartacuba (Multicolored Todus), the zunzún (Chlorostilbon ricordi) and the zunzuncito (Mellisuga helenae), among many others.
There are 16 species of reptiles that live here, among them the Cuban and the American crocodile, iguanas, lizards, majas and several types of frogs. Among the mammals are the dwarf jutía, the jutía conga, as well as many introduced populations of rustic pigs and deer.
Equally, in the estuaries and lagoons one can locate two species of aquatic vertebrates in danger of extinction, the manjuarí, considered a living fossil, and the sea cow (Trichechus manatus manatus).
In this natural refuge composed by areas of salt marshes and swamp have been identified more than a thousand species of insects, arachnids and arthropods. There also abound several species of mosquitoes and gnats.
Coastal areas that are part of the municipality of Cienaga de Zápata are Playa Larga and Playa Girón, both wellpreserved with varied attractions for visitors.