HAVANA – The Cuban crocodile repatriated from Spain to the communist island last July is out of quarantine and adapting satisfactorily to her new habitat in the Havana Zoological Garden, deputy director Jorge Alberto Hernandez said Wednesday.
The Crocodylus rhombifer, a 10-year-old female that had been taken illegally to Spain, has grown from 1.5 meters to 1.8 meters (59 inches to 71 inches) in length since she arrived back in Cuba on July 9 after a 36-hour trip from the Natura Parc on the Spanish island of Mallorca.
Hernandez told the state-run news agency AIN that the croc is still being kept in her own pond, separated from the zoo’s other 18 members of the species, until authorities feel she can be safely released into a more natural habitat at the zoo.
He added that the animals can grow to be up to 4 meters (13 feet) long and eat six kilograms (13.2 pounds) of horsemeat once a week.
The rhombifers have one of the most limited distributions of any of the world’s crocodile species. They are endemic to Cuba, where there are some 10,000 individuals being kept in hatcheries established in the Zapata Swamp, in the southern province of Matanzas, and on the Isle of Youth, southwest of Havana.
An expert at the Cuban Environmental Research and Control Center, Jose Alvarez, told Efe that the first communication regarding the crocodile abandoned in Spain was sent last September.
The only thing that is known about its life in Spain is that it was abandoned in September 2003 in a sack tied shut with a belt at the door of the Consortium for the Recovery of Fauna of the Balearic Islands, based in Mallorca, which subsequently assumed responsibility for its care.
It is presumed that its illegal smuggling out of Cuba was carried out by a tourist who visited the Zapata Swamp and acquired the croc there while it was still a small baby.
The capture, sale and transportation of rhombifers are all prohibited in Cuba and the only thing that is legally allowed is “the international trade in specimens raised in captivity at the Hatchery in the Zapata Swamp, with a certificate issued by the Administrative Authority,” Alvarez said. EFE