The Cuban government has formed several agencies to protect the environment. Among them are the National Parks Service, the National Commission of Environmental Protection and Rational Use of Natural Resources (1977), the National Environmental Education Program, the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, and the National Commission for the Protection of the Environment and for Conservation of Natural Resources. As of 2000, Cuba’s most pressing environmental problems were deforestation and the preservation of its wildlife. The government has sponsored a successful reforestation program aimed at replacing forests that had gradually decreased to a total of 17% of the land area by the mid-1990s.
Endangered species in Cuba include the Cuban solenodon, four species of hutia (dwarf, Cabera’s, large-eared, and little earth), two species of crocodile (American and Cuban), and the Cuban tree boa. In 2001, nine mammal species in a total of 31 were considered threatened. Thirteen bird species in a total of 137 were also threatened. Seven types of reptiles of 105 were endangered, along with 834 plant species out of a total of 6,000-plus. The ivory-billed woodpecker, Cuban red macaw, Caribbean monk seal, and Torre’s cave rat have become extinct.
The National System of Protected Areas of the Republic of Cuba, has proposed, after detailed studies on the values of the biodiversity of the country, to establish the areas of greatest ecological, social-historical-cultural relevance of the nation. This is to guarantee the conservation and the sustainable use of the Cuban biodiversity, considering it an objective, prioritized within the National program of Environment and Development. It is also to show commitment of the Cuban State to dedicate part of the Convention on biological diversity. This system is integrated by 236 units, 79 of them protected areas of national importance, and the rest considered protected areas of local importance.
The Republic of Cuba, with a population of 11 million, is the largest of the Antilles Islands, separating the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico to the north, from the Caribbean Sea to the south. It is 1250 km (775 miles) long and ranges from 40 km to 160 km (24 to 96 miles) in width. The country consists of more than 4000 islands and keys, nearly 6000 kilometers (3600 miles) of palm and mangrove-lined coastline, almost 300 natural beaches, three major mountain ranges with numerous connecting ranges, rain forests, and broad, rich and verdant, fertile plains and valleys dotted with tall, stately palms. The climate is moderately sub-tropical with an average temperature of 24.6 C (76.3 F): in summer 25 C (77 F) and in winter 22 C (71.6 F).
The island is completely surrounded by thousands of kilometers of coral reefs containing the most diverse variety of corals, fish and other marine life to be found anywhere, with steep walls dropping from reefs to the abyss.
More than 150 species of Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean fish abound in Cuban waters, from the majestic marlin, swordfish and sailfish, to bonefish, tarpon, snook and permit on flats and in estuaries, to snapper and grouper on the reefs. Tuna, cobia, mackeral, seatrout, jack and barracuda also abound. The socioeconomic development with the conservation of environment is combined. These areas are protected with categories of handling including within the National System.
More than 20 systems of caves and caverns can be explored throughout the island, some with rivers or underwater caves connecting with the sea, many with ancient indigenous pictographs, and all with their unique living species.
In addition, 7 special regions of sustainable development exist constituted by the 4 mountain ranges of the country (Guaniguanico, Guamuhaya, Sierra Maestra and Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa), the Bog of Zapata and the archipelagoes of the Canarreos and Sabana. Between the protected areas of national importance, there ones that stand out are 14 national parks, the 25 ecological reserves, the 6 reserves of the biosphere (Guanahacabibes, Sierra Rosary, Bog of Zapata, Buenavista, Baconao and Cuchillas of the Toa), the cultural landscape of the Viñales humanity and the Natural Patrimony of the humanity Disembarkation of the Granma. The special regions of sustainable development and the reserves of the biosphere are not included within the categories of handling of the National System of Protected Areas, but by its economic extension, potentialities, national and international importance of its natural values and fragile ecosystems, they are related closely to the system, since in them The network of protected areas, including all its variants and categories of handling, covers approximately 22% (1 400 000 has) within the national territory. In Cuba wonders of nature like the blind fish can be found living in crystalline waters of underground lakes in cársicas caverns in Pine of the River, truely charming snails: the polimitas and the Liguus, the smallesl frog on the planet (Eleutherodactylus limbatus, less than 1 cm in length), the tiniest bird (Mellisuga helenae or Zunzuncito, 63 mm), rare and beautiful orquídeas and the extraordinary butterfly with transparent wings.
Cuba is really an ecological paradise with very good conditions created for the lovers of nature and ecoturism, taking advantage of its immense wealth and ecological diversity.
The observation of birds and flora and fauna in general, fotocaza, the strolls by horseback or traveling rivers in typical boats, are great ways to get acquainted with Cuba.