American ecotourists may encounter some wild wildlife as travel to the island gets easier.
The Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cunbanus) is an endangered mammal is native to southeastern Cuba. A living fossil, the venomous shrew-like animal produces poisonous saliva that it injects into prey through its teeth. Largely wiped out by hunters and predators in the 19th century, the solenodon was last spotted in 2003. However, researchers have found evidence that the animal still survives.
The Cuban trogon (Priotelus tempuras) is Cuba’s national bird. It is found in healthy population numbers throughout the island.
Monte Iberia Dwarf Eleuth
The tiny Monte Iberia dwarf eleuth (Eleutherodactylus iberia) is the smallest frog in the northern hemisphere, and the third-smallest of all frog species. Found in two small areas of eastern Cuba, it is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because its preferred forest habitats have been converted to agricultural use or degraded by firewood collection.
A type of rodent, the Cuban hutia (Capromys pilorides) grows up to 19 pounds. They are hunted for food, “often cooked in a large pot with wild nuts and honey [or sautéed] with green peppers, onions, tomato sauce and lots of garlic,” according to a Caribbean animal website.
Cuban Ground Iguana
The Cuban ground iguana (Cyclura nubile) is found across Cuba. Coastal tourism development appears to be driving down this reptile’s numbers, leading the IUCN to classify it as a “vulnerable” species.
The Cuban tody (Todus multicolor) is a brightly colored native bird, found only in Cuba.
Cuban Land Crab
This crustacean may be known to nature TV lovers thanks to the segment of a 2008 episode of the show Nature. Every spring, millions of Cuban land crabs (Gecarcinus ruricola) swarm out of the forests and across whatever lays in their way—including roads and swimming pools—to breed in the sea.
Cuban Painted Snail
This gorgeous gastropod (Polymita picta) is another species found only in Cuba.
Cuban Tree Frog
The Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) is abundant and often sold as a pet. It’s thought that escaped or released pet tree frogs are responsible for the animal’s presence in mainland Florida and Hawaii, where it’s considered more of a pest.
The bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is the smallest known bird. Fully grown, it weighs 1.8 grams and is about two inches long. The bird is listed as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List, as its population is declining because of deforestation.
Cuban Tree Boa
The Cuban tree boa (Epicrates angulifer) is the longest known arboreal boa, growing between seven and 13 feet long. This species is classified as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List, probably because of loss of its forest habitat.
Lucifuga (Lucifuga genus) are freshwater fish that live in caves and sinkholes. The four known species are all classed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of threatened and endangered species.
By Emily J. Gertz, takepart
May 8, 2015