Embracing the entire Zapata Peninsula in southern Matanzas
province, this IBA is the largest wetland in the Caribbean. It has
extensive cave lake systems with spectacular blue holes, flooded
caves and important water resources. The IBA also provides
critical habitat in the form of forest, flooded palm savannas, open
waterand salinas, reefs and mangroves. It has unique submerged
marine terraces and coral reefs, valuable archaeological and
paleontological sites, and a history of traditional use of natural
resources in the surrounding rural communities.
This IBA is home to 40 biome-restricted birds, including 21
Cuba endemics and 17 globally threatened species. The
Endangered Zapata Wren Ferminia cerverai and Zapata Rail
Cyanolimnas cerverai are endemic to the IBA. The Endangered
Cuban Sparrow Torreornis inexpectata inexpectata, Gundlach’s
Hawk Accipiter gundlachi, Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas
cyanocephala and Giant Kingbird Tyrannus cubensis also occur.
The area supports large concentrations of waterbirds, including
breeding populations of Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis nesiotes
and Wood Stork Mycteria americana. This is the last site in
Cuba where the Critically Endangered Bachman’s Warbler
Vermivora bachmanii was observed, in 1964.
Non-bird biodiversity: The Endangered Cuban crocodile Crocodylus rhombifer,
Vulnerable American crocodile C. acutus and Critically
Endangered dwarf hutia Mesocapromys nanus occur. Globally
threatened sea-turtles nest on the beaches, and the IBA supports
the largest population of the endemic Endangered fish
Atractosteus tristoechus, considered a living fossil.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Ciénaga de Zapata was declared a biosphere reserve in 2000
and currently awaits approval as a managed resource protected
area. The proposed core zones are Ciénaga de Zapata National
Park (approved by the Comité Ejecutivo del Consejo de
Ministros in 2008), Bermejas Wildlife Refuge, and Los Sábalos
Wildlife Refuge. Main activities are forestry, tourism and
fishing. Tourism is concentrated in La Boca, Guamá, Playa
Larga and Playa Girón, where wildlife watching, recreational
fishing, hiking and beach tourism take place. The IBA has been
affected by forest fires, storms, poor water management and
restoration, as well as hunting, fishing, and illegal logging. Other
threats include invasive plants and fauna (e.g. the carnivorous
catfish Clarias gariepinus).
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ciénaga de Zapata. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/07/2020.