Giraldo Alayón García
President, Cuban Zoological Society
Representative, Green Caribe Foundation
Along its lengthy history of almost 42 million years, Cuban nature has produced a many-colored set of evolutionary marvels, most of them small and exclusive. They cover the geography of the island by patches, forming a mosaic of populations, most of which are small-sized and fragile.
Systematic studies of the Antillean fauna were initiated by Carolus Linnaeus, but it was a local, Antonio Parra, who in 1787 published the first substantial contribution to Cuban zoology. In the 209 years that have since passed, the islandís creatures have been the subject of many hundred scientific articles, and of some technical books. This literature has given name to over 10,000 land-based animal species that make up the archipelagoís fauna, or has offered data on their lives. All this information, though, has never before been appropriately put together for the joy of the layperson.
Natural Cuba is an effort to fill this void. It offers the products of local evolution first-hand, accompanied by a precise and entertaining text. What is even better, it convincingly explains the need to recognize what is intrinsically valuable, and what is authentically Cuban. The book uses the best of specialized science and the best of narrative art to lay a much needed bridge between the Cubans and their land.
With utmost elegance, Alfonso Silva takes us through the native scapes of land and sea, showing the remarkable facets of a good many creatures typical of the island. The book invites reflection on the important need to have a wider appreciation of the local animals, and has especially acute observations on the cultural roots of the narrow point of view prevailing today. The book is also critical regarding the introduction of exotic animals, a practice highly damaging to island environments.
In the Caribbean-Antillean context we know of no other publication like this one, which recreates the fundamental components of faunal diversity with astonishing erudition, offers an abundance of recent data, excellent photography, and a prose not only tractable, but delicious. Natural Cuba, thus inaugurates in popular expression the genuine value of a good portion of the Antillean biota. This book should prove an efficient tool in regional environmental education, and will surely contribute in the conservation of the enormous natural riches of our enchanted islands.
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