This is one of the 10
Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus
rhombifer) released into Cuba’s
Pure Cuban crocs
back in their ancestral home
Wildlife Conservation Society news staff
Experts from the Wildlife Conservation
Society and the Bronx Zoo in New York
assisted Cuban conservationists in the release of
10 Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer)
into Cuba's Zapata Swamp as part of a recovery
strategy for this critically endangered species.
These genetically pure crocodiles came from a
breeding facility near the Zapata swamp.
Hybridization with American crocodiles, which
occur in the southwestern tip of the Zapata
Peninsula, has contributed to the Cuban
crocodile's continuing decline. Cuban crocodiles
face other threats, such as an increase in illegal
hunting, so the release of captive-bred Cuban
crocodiles and the protection of these reptiles
from poaching and hybridization is critical to the
survival of the species in the wild.
The crocodiles were released in the Refugio de
Fauna Canales de Hanábana, a 570 hectare (1,400
acre) mosaic of water channels, lagoons, marsh
grasslands, and swamp forests in the easternmost
Zapata Peninsula where Cuban crocodiles
historically occurred. Marsh grasslands in this
refuge provide crucial habitat for not only Cuban
crocodiles, but prey including bird, fish and
mammal species. No American crocodiles or hybrids
are found in this wildlife refuge.
The release took place June 8. It is the second
reintroduction in 2016. The decision to release
the crocodiles followed a workshop of crocodile
experts organized by the Wildlife Conservation
Society and Cuban institutions, including the
Fundación Antonio Nuñez Jiménez, CITMA Ciénaga de
Zapata, and Empresa Nacional para la Protección de
la Flora y la Fauna. The workshop brought together
40 Cuban nationals working for the conservation of
crocodiles in Cuba, and 30 international experts.
The workshop resulted in a series of priorities
for improving the conservation of crocodiles,
including: strengthening the research and
monitoring of Cuban crocodiles in the wild,
increasing efforts to reintroduce and monitor
reintroduced animals in Channels of Hanabana,
working with local communities to reduce poaching
through alternative livelihoods and environmental
education and working with local authorities to
strengthen compliance to reduce illegal selling of
"This workshop was important because it enabled
the second release of Cuban crocodiles into the
wild and motivated all participants to do even
more to save this critically endangered species,”
said said Natalia Rossi, the society’s Cuba
program manager. “Our workshop was fundamental to
bring everyone together to share the work being
done to save the Cuban crocodile."
The critically endangered Cuban crocodile has the
smallest, most restricted geographic distribution
among all living crocodilian species, being only
found in parts of the Zapata and Lanier swamps.
Historically it was found throughout the Zapata
Peninsula, but indiscriminate hunting for skins
beginning in the second half of the 19th century
and lasting until the early 1960s decimated most
populations. Today, Cuban crocodiles inhabit a
territory of about 77,600 hectares (191,700
acres), sharing habitat with the American
crocodile and the hybrids of both species.
The society’s John Thorbjarnarson began working on
Cuban crocodiles in the 1990s, and the Bronx Zoo
was the first U.S. zoo to successfully breed Cuban
crocodiles. The first one hatched in 1983. Six
more hatched in 1984, and 21 in 1985. There has
been no reproduction since then, but the zoo has a
new young pair of crocodiles that will be
introduced to each other late this year.
—July 16, 2017
U.S. top diplomat in Cuba, DeLaurentis, leaves post
By the A.M.
Cuba news staff
The top U.S. official on the ground in Cuba has
left that position, and the U.S. State Department
said that his deputy will serve as temporary
The changing of the guard gives President Donald
Trump an opening to name a new leader for the U.S.
The person who left is Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who
was the top U.S. diplomat there for three years.
He severed as chargé d’affaires from August 2014
and was the top diplomat when former president
Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations in July
2015. Obama named DeLaurentis to be
ambassador to Cuba, but he was not confirmed by
the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate
The new chargé is Scott Hamilton, who joined the
embassy staff as second in command in July
2015. An official announcement by the embassy said
that Hamilton would hold the post ad interim,
meaning until someone else is picked.
Trump has reversed the Obama approach to Cuba, and
a clear outline of policy still is awaited.
The embassy said in an announcement that Hamilton,
who was born in Scotland, has been director of
Central American affairs at the State Department
and an advisor to the U.S. delegation at the
Organization of American States.
Hamilton holds degrees from Harvard Law School and
from Oxford University in England. He practiced
law in Chicago from 1989 to 1992, it added.
—July 11, 2017
still smoking hot
A.M. Cuba wire services
legendary cigar is still as
popular as ever with sales
last year rising 5 percent
to a staggering $445
Powless via Wikimedia Commons
Cuban woman enjoys a hand-rolled
cigar outside the Plaza de Armas
Now Habanos lovers are
stoked over the 19th annual
Habanos Festival in Havana,
Cuba, which runs through
Friday. Cuba's monopoly
cigar company, Grupo Habanos
Company, markets 27 handmade
Habanos brands including the
Monte Cristo and Romeo y
Julieta. The highlight of
the festival is the
introduction of new cigarvitolas (lengths) and
band markings -- a big deal
for cigar aficionados.
dominates the global market
for hand-rolled, premium
cigars except in the United
States due to Washington's
half-century trade embargo
against Cuba. This hasn't
stopped the illegal trade,
where Habanos have been
making a showing in the U.S.
In the past year, U.S.
tourists to Cuba have been
permitted to legally bring
back a certain number of
Habanos, courtesy of the
attempt to normalize
relations with Cuba.