Animals of Cuba: Cuban Crocodiles
by AMNH on
Located less than 100 miles from Cuba’s capital, Havana, Zapata Swamp is one of the island’s most treasured national parks. A plethora of animals, many of them found only in this part of the world, live in this 2,200-square-mile wetland, including some of the last remaining Cuban crocodiles in the wild.
The Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) is a big animal, reaching up to 12 feet in length. Males of this brightly colored freshwater species, which occurs only in the Cuban archipelago, are notable for the bony protrusions adorning the backs of their heads.
In captivity, these animals have developed a reputation among zookeepers for being too clever by half. Some have even suggested that the species displays pack-hunting instincts, a behavior that is otherwise unheard of in crocodiles.
“There’s an impression among researchers that Cuban crocodiles are notably curious and notably aggressive—two attributes that are not normally associated with crocodiles,” says George Amato, director of the Museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, who has been working with the species since the 1990s and has traveled to Zapata Swamp each year of the past three years.
Stay tuned to the Museum blog to learn more about efforts to conserve wild populations of Cuban crocodiles. In the meantime, you can see a model of the Cuban crocodile—and other amazing Cuban wildlife—in ¡Cuba!, which is free for Members and opens to the public on Monday, November 21.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.