Animals and Plants
The animals of Cuba
Cuba’s wildlife is rich in fish, butterflies and birds, while mammal species are relatively few. Among these are also many bats, but also manatees. These manatees are also mammals but live in the water. Some very special species also live in Cuba, namely the tree rats and the weevils. Have you heard of these before?
Tree rats – the largest mammals in Cuba
Tree rats are rodents that live only on the Caribbean islands, namely Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. According to Countryaah, these countries belong to Caribbean. They are also called jutias. This is also a more appropriate name, because although they look similar to rats, they are not related to them at all. The genus of the Cuba tree rats or Hutiacongas lives only in Cuba. They are widespread and feel good in forests and in the mountains.
The Cuban weevil
Sand weevils are only found on the Caribbean islands, and only in Cuba and Hispaniola. Weevils look like large shrews and eat insects. There are only two of the four species left, one of which lives in Hispaniola and the other in Cuba. This is the Cuban weevil, also called Almiqui. Both species are threatened with extinction. They look cute with their long snouts, but be careful: weevils are poisonous. When they bite, they release poison.
The smallest bird in the world and other flutterers
Among the 350 bird species in Cuba is also the smallest bird in the world. It belongs to the group of hummingbirds and is called the bee elf. Sometimes it is also called the bumblebee hummingbird. It only occurs in Cuba. It becomes 5 to 7 centimeters tall. A bee elf weighs only 1.8 grams, which is less than an ostrich feather. The beak is pointed and long, but in it is a tongue that is twice as long with which the bee elf sucks nectar from flowers. Other feathered inhabitants of Cuba are the multi-colored deaths, the Cuban pigeon and the Tocoroco, with its red, blue and white feathers the national bird of Cuba.
Small but mighty: one of the smallest frogs in the world is Cuban
Cuba holds another record in the animal world, because one of the smallest frogs in the world also lives here. It is only 10 millimeters tall. For a long time it was thought to be the smallest frog, but several even smaller frogs have now been discovered.
The little Cuban frog, in any case, is the Monte Iberia frog. It lives in a small rainforest area in the east of the island. He likes mites and ants best. By the way, the frog is poisonous. It protects itself from being eaten. The frog does not produce the poison itself, but rather by eating poisonous animals such as horn mites. He himself can tolerate this poison and accumulates it in his skin.
The Cuban crocodile and other reptiles
Snakes and iguanas are just as indigenous to Cuba as the Cuban crocodile. That only happens here. It becomes 3.50 meters long and is considered aggressive. It is easy to recognize by the two “horns” behind the eyes. It lays its eggs in pits. This is also done by the American crocodiles, which are also found in Cuba, but also in Central and South America.
What is growing there in Cuba?
Many palm trees, mangroves and orchids grow in Cuba. The most typical tree, however, is probably the royal palm, which was also chosen as the country’s national tree. It grows up to 30 meters high. Their wood, their bark and their palm fronds are used in many ways, for example in furniture construction or for roofing. Other indigenous palm trees are the coconut palm, the cork palm or the sabal palm. The white butterfly flower (Hedychium coronarium) has been chosen as the national flower.
A socialist planned economy
As a result of the 1959 revolution, a socialist state was established in Cuba. It is typical that the economy is heavily controlled by the state. Firms are state-owned and not privately owned. Business goals are specified and planned. That is why one speaks of a planned economy.
Cuba’s economy collapsed with the revolution. The previously rich country, which lived mainly from selling sugar, became impoverished. To make matters worse, the USA imposed a trade embargo in 1962 after Cuba expropriated property from US citizens. In contrast, the economy was supported and sustained by the Soviet Union. With its disintegration in 1991, Cuba’s economy collapsed again.
In Cuba, the government sets prices. Since 1962, a booklet, the Libreta, has been stipulating how much each Cuban could buy of certain goods. Since 2010 there have been some economic reforms and relaxation of regulations. The rationing system (allocation of food and other everyday goods) is also to be abolished. The US trade embargo was relaxed in 2015.
Only 4 percent of economic output comes from agriculture, although 18 percent of the people work here. Mainly sugar cane, tobacco and coffee are grown, as well as citrus fruits, rice, potatoes and beans. Sugar and tobacco are the most important products for export, i.e. for sale in other countries. Cuba’s cigars are world famous. However, many foods have to be bought at a high price abroad.
Industry: nickel, petroleum and medicine
In industry it is the other way around than in agriculture. It generates 22.7 percent, although only 10 percent work here. The most important mineral resource is nickel, which is also exported. Almost all of the oil was bought from the Soviet Union until 1990. When the deliveries from there failed to materialize, Cuba fell into a deep energy crisis. In the meantime, Cuba itself produces crude oil and covers about half of its needs itself. The production of drugs, especially vaccines, is important for exports.
Tourism and other services
Services form the largest part of the economy. Most of the people are also employed here. Tourism has played an increasingly important role since the 1990s. Several million tourists now come to Cuba every year; in 2018 it was five million.
And why are so many old cars now driving in Cuba?
In Cuba you can see a lot of cars from the 1950s on the streets. This is because it has been illegal in Cuba since the 1959 revolution to buy new cars from abroad. Only cars that were built before 1959 were allowed to be freely traded. In previous years, however, there were mainly cars from the USA. So they were always well looked after in the decades that followed. And so old Fords, Chevrolets, Cadillacs or Old Plymouths still drive through Havana.
In 2014, however, the ban fell and more and more new cars will probably find their way to Cuba in the future. However, very few Cubans will be able to afford a new car. The classic cars will certainly be preserved for the tourists as long as possible.