CARIBBEAN CONSERVATION TRUST has developed a Community Education Program in Cuba with the goals of informing kids and families of the value of birds, habitat, and a conservation in an effort to instil local interest in birding, and in nature in general. Our interest is to help develop a greater sense of appreciation in Cuban communities for the enjoyable and valuable resource that birds and nature provide.
In one respect, a general interest, and in some cases passionate interest in nature certainly does exist in Cuba, but resources for learning more about birds and nature are severely limited for the average Cuban. Simply put, bird watching in Cuba by Cubans is a rare practice. When we first started bringing U.S. citizens to Cuba in 1996, all of the biologists we met lacked basic resources such as field guides and binoculars. Most had very little experience with groups of professional or recreational birders. The few who did have binoculars were using antiquated and heavy Russian military relics that were challenging to use, and were in various states of disrepair. Since then we have continually provided upgraded optics and field guides, valuable training, cameras, clothing, back packs, and other [gm1] critical resources, including jobs!.
We have either purchased or facilitated the donation of dozens of pairs of binoculars, English and Spanish language field guides of Cuban, West Indian, and North American birds, several spotting scopes, from our generous organizational partners and individual travelers. Quite recently, we have begun to distribute hundreds of bird conservation themed coloring books that we conceived and helped design with the invaluable assistance of the Halifax River Audubon Society and David Hartgrove. Cuban American Reinier Munguia wrote and illustrated 31 pages of accurately depicted and informative images of 28 birds that occur in Cuba, complete with simple, clear messages informing and reminding Cuban youth (and hopefully, their elders) of the incredible birds that call Cuba home, for all or part of their annual cycles. The initial printing of this important resource, which was endorsed at the urging of CCT by two national parks in Cuba, yielded 2000 copies. After or annual 6 month birding season, during which hundreds of U.S. based birders visited Cuba with CCT, we have outfitted naturalists and educators in 5 Cuban provinces. At this writing, a second addition ( both in English & Spanish) is in the works.
We are initially focusing on communities that are in or very near national parks, nature preserves, and other protected areas. A specific goal is to confront the caged bird trade, which is a growing threat to both resident and migratory birds in Cuba. The birds that are most vulnerable in Cuba include West Indian endemics such as Cuban Parrot (Rose-throated Amazon), Cuban Bullfinch, and endemic Cuban Parakeet and Cuban Grassquit. Migratory birds most impacted include Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, and Northern Mockingbird, which is also a resident species in Cuba. Young boys are the first link in this unfortunately popular, culturally accepted but illegal ( by both Cuban and international law) practice. Cuban kids are encouraged to capture wild birds for a small fee. These birds are then sold both in Cuba and outside the country
Special thanks to Reinier Munguia, David Hartgrove, Paul Baicich, Will Young, Andy Griswold, and Randy Rogers, who are among scores of friends and colleagues who have generously supported this and other efforts to help educate the Cuban people of the value and enjoyment of the compelling birds and habitat that are found throughout this beautiful island nation.
Thanks also to the Ohio Ornithological Society, Connecticut Audubon Society, Audubon Portland,
CCT Ornithologist Mike Good, Executive Director Gary Markowski, with Osmany Borrego, Assistant Director of Parque Nacional Guanahahcabibes. Osmany directs the Community Education Program in the communities serving his national park.These communities are among the most remote we visit on our itineraries in Cuba.