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Cuban Fauna: The Peculiar Sign of Crocodiles

The largest Antillean island, which will become a stronghold of nature tourism in the Caribbean, complements its offers for the leisure industry with the huge wealth of its flora and fauna, in which most species are endemic of the archipelago.

Cuba's geographical location and its tropical climate have contributed to bringing together the most diverse animal and plant species in some 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles), in a landscape where crocodiles impose their peculiar sign.

This ferocious predator, whose fame is very similar to that of the lion (the so-called king of the jungle), lives in restricted habitats throughout the island, where visitors can enjoy the different stages of the life of this species in its entire magnitude, without any danger.

Cuba is home to the so-called Rhombifer, which is endemic of the Island and is characterized by its massive body and thick skin. Although this appearance gives the animal an unpleasant look, it attracts many visitors.

This species, whose name comes from the rhomboidal shape of its head, is commonly found in reservoirs of fresh water in faraway places of difficult access.

Experts have also reported the existence in Cuba of the so-called American Crocodile, which travels to salt waters during the reproductive season, and a small population of caimans or Colombian "babillas".

Cayo Saetía Alligator

The main groups of that species were located in the Lanier Swamp (on the Isle of Youth), as well as in the Cauto River, the Baconao Lagoon (in eastern Cuba), the Zapata Swamp and Batabanó.

At present, the largest population of Rhombifer lives in the Zapata Swamp - a true paradise for ecological tourism and the largest swamp in the Caribbean -, as well as several hundreds specimens in the Isle of Youth.

Several legends - some of which are partly true - are linked to the history of that species, which is considered highly aggressive. However, it does not represent a danger for thousands of vacationers who visit the facilities especially designed to watch these animals in their habitat.

Cubans feel a special attraction for crocodiles, since the largest island in the Cuban archipelago, which many consider a green caiman in the Caribbean, is usually compared with this animal.

Cuba's legislation, which is aimed at preserving the existence of that peculiar piece of the national fauna, bans crocodile hunting and selling its meat and skin, which is highly demanded in the shoe industry, and only under strict controls, the commercialization of the Rhombifer has been authorized.

It is precisely in the Zapata Swamp where two restaurants serve crocodile meat, characterized by its delicious flavor and texture similar to chicken. Dishes are prepared in the most diverse forms, without neglecting the protection of that singular animal.

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