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Wildlife in Cuba

Cuba's terrain is as diverse and vibrant as its culture and you'll find a variety of harmless endemic and non-native species spread out across this picturesque destination.

Boasting more plant and animal species than anywhere else on the island, from the impressive rock iguana and majestic manatee to the minuscule bee hummingbird, visitors can explore the moist and pine forests and cactus scrub with complete peace of mind.

Land animals

The biggest of the endemic species on the island is the Cuban hutia.

Growing to around 24 inches in length, you'll spot these shy rodents in the forests and rocky areas of the island or on many authentic restaurants menus served as a stew with nuts and honey. Once the dominant predator of the West Indies, the shrew-like Cuban Solenodon is another native animal to south-eastern Cuba.

This nocturnal species is venomous, injecting poisonous saliva into their prey when biting them – but don't worry, as while you should try to avoid picking up a painful bite, the Solenodon's venom isn't lethal to humans. These rodents are also very rare, and carry endangered species status.

You'll also have a good chance of spotting the small Indian mongoose on your trip to Cuba. These were introduced to the Caribbean in around 1886 to control rat populations in the sugar cane fields, but with few natural predators they've had significant negative impact on other small animals, including the Cuban Solenodon.

The island is rife with bat species too, and the butterfly bat is one of the most recognisable. As one of the world's smallest bats, with a wingspan measuring just five inches, you'll have to stay vigilant to spot one of these tiny creatures.


The Cuban crocodile has been greatly affected by loss of habitat and was previously hunted for its skin and meat. Since 1996, the freshwater crocodile has been protected as an endangered species and can be spotted in the Zapata Swamp in southern Cuba.

The most prominent and one of the most impressive reptiles on the island is the Cuban rock iguana which can reach up to five feet in length. As the largest of the West Indian rock iguanas they can easily be spotted climbing trees or around Cuba's limestone rocks.

Marine Life

The waters around Cuba are teeming with life. Avid snorkellers will enjoy the company of clown and angel fish and countless other brightly coloured fish as they explore the beautiful reefs off the coast.

Flying fish, dolphins and porpoises can be spotted during an unforgettable boat trip and endangered turtles frequent the warm, transparent sea.

Another spectacular native species is the West Indian manatee which can be found in shallow waters around coastal areas and estuaries. Protected under the Marine Mammal Protection act, these wrinkly, gentle giants can often be heard squeaking as a form of communication in the water.

Bird watching

Cuba boasts over 368 species of birds with 25 of these striking feathered friends native to the island making it a bird watchers paradise.

Mimicking the colours of Cuba's flag and unable to survive captivity, the Cuban Trogon is the country's national bird and can be found in Cuba's woodlands. Across the lakes and lagoons, colonies of brightly coloured flamingos congregate and large populations of the smiling, endemic Cuban parakeet can also be easily spotted around the Zapata Swamp.

Recognised as a symbol of love, the bee hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world at just over two inches long. This remarkable bird can be seen darting around forests and fields feeding on flower nectar.

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