Cuba: an environmental success story

Reforestation and conservation help preserve a tropical paradise

Perhaps because Havana boasts one of the finest collections of architecture in the world and Varadero has some of the finest beaches, Cuba’s status as a biodiversity hotspot often gets overlooked.

The hawksbill turtle is one of many species protected by the Cuban government

Close to 4,000 marine species call the reefs and waters of Cuba home, while the protected Zapata wetlands alone provide crucial habitat to over 65 migratory bird species, along with a host of other reptiles and amphibians. Maintaining biodiversity could be considered another success of the Cuban Revolution, along with reversal of deforestation: prior to Fidel Castro’s ascension to the Presidency only 14 percent of the island nation was forested versus 24 percent today. As the country has defied political trends, so too have they defied broader environmental trends that have resulted in record species die-offs and loss of forest, especially in the developing world. Politically, environmental protection has been a central plank to recent U.S.-Cuba deals and ongoing cooperative efforts between the two countries. As Cuba opens up, it may want to emulate the Costa Rican model which utilizes strong environmental policies to drive its burgeoning ecotourism industry, and is presently ranked the greenest and happiest country on Earth.

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