By Rosa Velazquez Perez (from Las Tunas local radio station)
With the opening of a research center in the eastern Cuban province of Las Tunas, a significant step has been taken towards the protection of area reptiles; experts consider this locale to be the largest natural sanctuary of the acutus crocodile in this region.
The research facility consists of a cozy log cabin which serves as housing and the office. Nearby are the kitchen and dormitories.
Solar panels provide electricity for the night, something that humanizes the work of the women and men dedicated to working with animals of this coastal marine ecosystem.
Thanks to patient observation and monitoring of that site’s abundant fauna, it has been possible to register some 140 species, which include birds in danger of extinction, such as the Cuban parakeet, the dirty woodpecker, and several species of hawks and aquatic birds.
Pink flamingoes adorn the scenery with their color and beauty, while pelicans perch on bare tree trunks and branches as they wait for prey.
Nevertheless, the acutus crocodile is the predominant animal species. Its stable population is self-regulating according to the possibilities offered by the surrounding environment.
Manuel Alonso Tabet, the chief specialist, for over a decade has dedicated himself to the observation of those reptiles in the region. He says he was attracted by their ability to survive, despite the poaching to which they have been subjected for years.
The biologist has been able to confirm how this crocodile to changes in his habitat. It does not attack humans, except to defend its offspring. It is able to escape the nets, when hunters attempt to capture it. It follows effective strategies to protect its young during the 80-90 day period of incubation. Once the small crocodiles hatch, their parents take care of them by leading through the estuary and the swamp towards the lair built in the mangrove swamp.
The attention given to this protected area has permitted the study of the formation of crocodile nests, which is one of the main limitations for the reproduction of this species. In fact, out of the 14,500 hectares covered by the Las Tunas wetlands, only nine are fit for the female crocodiles to lay eggs.
At times researchers have built artificial dunes, to which the reptiles responded by immediately building new nests. This has allowed a better idea of the possibilities of managing the nesting process.
In addition, infrared cameras have been placed in the zone to register the nocturnal movements of these reptiles.
The natural riches of this site make it an attraction for Cuban and foreign specialists, as well as volunteer nature lovers from the United States, Mexico, Ireland, Great Britain, and Peru who spend their vacations working toward the preservation of flora and fauna.