The mountainous forests of Lomas de Banao Ecological Reserve are home to species only found in the Caribbean—including the vulnerable Cuban Parakeet and the near threatened Cuban Amazon Parrot. Despite this unique biodiversity, long-term political complexities with the U.S. and other nations stymied collaborative international research. But now international relations are improving, making this a critical moment for the island nation's wildlife. As Cuba becomes more open to the world, many predict new economic opportunities and the development that comes along with it.
Researchers are now able to recruit citizen scientists to help them take stock of the wildlife that inhabit these beautiful, protected lands, information that will be crucial to informing management and conservation plans as the island becomes increasingly developed. In its initial years, this project helped produce the first-ever baseline assessments of biodiversity in Banao—including data on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plant-life. In analyzing these data, scientists determined that researching and conserving primary pollinators and seed dispersers, including birds and bats, is essential to maintaining and improving the integrity of habitats within the forest. In the second phase of this project, volunteers will support this pollinator research by working with a team of scientists from Cuba and Argentina to document the many endemic and migratory bird species that inhabit the reserves. You’ll document bird sightings, record bird songs, monitor bat populations, and survey forest trees—particularly royal palms, which provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds. The data collected will help to paint a more complete picture of these protected areas and how increased development could impact biodiversity in the future.
Kathryn Scott | MAY 9, 2023 ★★★★★
"Outstanding People in an Outstanding Place"
The expedition was wonderful! Volunteers participated in bird inventory transects (dazzling tropical birds), measured tree growth in research plots (weird & wonderful tropical trees) and participated in mist-netting bats for the initial bat inventory at the study site. We saw eight different species of bats on this first inventory and learned a lot about bats. We also participated in a voluntary project to plant seedlings of an endangered conifer which seems to be thriving more successfully at Lomas de Banao than anywhere else. At Jarico, between project tasks we swam in the cool, clear Banao River, or looked through some of the many available nature guides to identify the different birds, butterflies, anoles, etc. that we’d seen. At La Sabina we enjoyed presentations about related projects, saw birds of astounding beauty, or just sat and soaked up the view overlooking the valley. The accommodations and food were very nice in both places. The scientists were just amazing. They were genuine experts with a real passion for understanding and protection of the biodiversity of this beautiful reserve. They were very appreciative of our efforts and treated us as friends. Lomas de Banao is a magical place, and the staff were the best part!
Joanne McDermott | AUGUST 17, 2019 ★★★★★
"This trip far exceeded my expectations"
What a fantastic experience! I feel very, very lucky to have been able to spend time with such amazing scientists and researchers - true experts in their fields. This trip far exceeded my expectations in terms of the exposure to the research and getting a feel for how studies like this add to the bank of data about biodiversity in a country. The team - researchers and support staff - were just fantastic! Very knowledgeable, excited to share their work with us, patient, and fun.
Margaret Faucher | JULY 17, 2018 ★★★★★
"The Wild Side of Cuba!"
When most people think of Cuba vintage cars, cigars and rum come to mind. But there is another side of Cuba, forest-clad mountains filled with species of animals and plants found no where else on the planet, that most people will never see. This expedition gives you the opportunity to experience the amazing biodiversity of Cuba and to help local scientists to conserve it. Where else can you see the smallest bird in the World and colorful lizards doing push-ups? Come to Cuba and see for yourself the incredible variety of life here and how you can help protect it for future generations!