Feature: Cuban environmentalists, gov't highlight biodiversity protection amid climate change impacts – Xinhua


Source: Xinhua
Editor: huaxia
2022-04-12 22:42:15

Image taken on March 9, 2018 shows a worker feeding crocodiles in the Crocodiles Breeder of the Zapata Swamp, in Matanzas province, Cuba.  (Xinhua/Joaquin Hernandez)
Cuba’s Cienaga de Zapata National Park is one of the largest and most important wetlands in the Caribbean region, as it harbors about 1,000 kinds of plants and hundreds of species of animals, including Cuban crocodiles, Zapata sparrows, flamingos, and other migratory birds, largely from North America.
by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, April 12 (Xinhua) — “Cuba is not only famous for its music, premium cigars, and sandy beaches, but for its biodiversity,” said an everyday visitor of Cuba’s Cienaga de Zapata National Park, who depicts the nature reserve as “the country’s major reservoir of endemism.”
Yoandy Bonachea, a 37-year-old Cuban environmentalist, starts working early in the morning at the national park located some 200 km east of capital Havana. Wearing camouflage clothing, he gets into the forest to explore the impact of climate change on the biodiversity of the Cuban flora and fauna.
Bonachea, who also works as a tour guide, takes pictures of the natural habitats of different species of animals and plants living in the mangrove ecosystem.
Recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the national park is one of the largest and most important wetlands in the Caribbean region, as it harbors about 1,000 kinds of plants and hundreds of species of animals, including Cuban crocodiles, Zapata sparrows, flamingos, and other migratory birds, largely from North America.
However, these years, the park rangers are already feeling the impacts of climate change on the ecosystem, and are scrambling to take actions against the risks brought by rising sea levels, global warming, and increased hurricanes.
“We have started to see coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion as clear evidence of the climate change’s impact over the past few years,” Andria Fuentes, a senior specialist with Cuba’s Company for the Conservation of the Cienaga de Zapata, told Xinhua.
“The national park has also seen an increase in the arrival of migratory birds and a subsequent decline in the number of fish stocks,” she added.
Currently, a mangrove restoration program is underway in Cienaga de Zapata, and many crocodiles have been relocated to higher areas due to the sea level rise.
Cuban biologist Andres Hurtado said that the conservation of wetlands is a paramount priority for environmentalists and science authorities.
“We have a captive breeding program for endangered species,” he said. “In the coming years, we expect that some species of animals make a gradual comeback to their natural habitats.”
At the same time, a reforestation program is being carried out in Cienaga de Zapata, with various native trees of highly economic value to be planted.
“This is the largest and best-protected wetland in the Caribbean,” said Paulo Bouza, director-general of the above-mentioned conservation company. “Our biodiversity not only belongs to Cuba but to the world over.”
Odalys Goicochea, director-general of environment at the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, said that the loss of biodiversity is one of the major threats facing the Caribbean nation for years to come.
“We have many challenges ahead, including seawater pollution, loss of forest coverage and biodiversity as well as soil erosion, which directly affects food sovereignty,” she said. “We are working hard to improve our environmental management system through strategic guidelines.” 

source