Cuba is known for its salsa, rum and tropical beaches, but did you know it’s also a hotspot for many endemic EDGE species?
ZSL’s Dr Oliver Wearn and Dr Carolina Soto Navarro are working to conserve the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species. Joined by two Erasmus Darwin Barlow Expedition attendants, Josh Blackman and Katia Sanchez Ortiz, they embarked on an exhibition to Cuba to do just that.
A priority for ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme that is found solely on the island is the Cuban greater funnel-eared bat, but very little is known about it. In fact, it was thought to be extinct until a population was found in a remote underground cave, Cueva La Barca, in 1992.
This cave provides the hot, humid conditions apparently needed for breeding and is 40°C in the deepest chamber! It’s home to Cuban boas, giant crabs and 13 species of bat, but the Cuban greater funnel-eared bat is special as it’s only found in this one cave, it’s evolutionarily unique and is also threatened.
Its inherent vulnerability due to its small population size is a threat to the species, but there is also another concern. The cave lies a mere 250 metres inside the boundary of the Guanahacabibes National Park, and if the bats are foraging outside of the park, they could be vulnerable to future threats such as habitat destruction due to logging. So it was important for the team to learn more about this species and its distribution patterns to protect the population.
Using sound recording devices, it was possible to listen for and record the ultrasonic call of the bat to find out where it goes each night, and how far away from the cave it ventures. Camera trap surveys were also used to find out which holes it was using to exit the cave, and then assess the surrounding forest for invasive species, such as feral pigs and black rats. Carolina also trialled 3D mapping of the cave through photogrammetry – using photography to survey the area.
The expedition gave a great insight into techniques used to study the Cuban greater funnel-eared bat and also shaped invaluable relationships with local collaborators and helped to identify new prospective EDGE Fellows.
The hope is that the findings will help to shape future conservation efforts to protect this important EDGE species and its habitat.
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit
A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.
See the latest ranges, updates and special offers from our exciting new online shop.
Excerpts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.