Aired Sunday September 26th, 2010 at 7:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
Nearly all of Cuba's untouched tropical forests and coastal shores have been preserved for half a century by a communist government with no means of development. Today Cuba's pristine tropical environment faces impending threats. New economic policies are on the horizon, and large scale tourism is bound to follow. The U.S. government has been in recent negotiations to end its long trade embargo with Cuba. While that has yet to happen, Nature offers a breathtaking, unrestricted view of the crown jewel of the Caribbean in Cuba: The Accidental Eden, premiering Sunday, September 26, at 7 p.m. on KUED.
Decades of relative isolation have allowed Cuba's diverse landscapes and intriguing indigenous creatures to flourish. Just 90 miles from Florida, Cuba contains miles of untouched tropical forests, intact wetlands, and unspoiled desert coasts. As the largest of the Caribbean islands, Cuba boasts an extensive home to some of the smallest animals, including the world's smallest bat, the smallest owl, and the tiny bee hummingbird, the planet's smallest bird. It's also home to one of the most extensive coral reefs in the Western Hemisphere.
Cuba: The Accidental Eden uncovers the conservation work of dedicated Cuban scientists, some of whom make only $25 a month. Among the passionate conservationists working in the field is biologist Emma Palacios Lemagne, who's researching how polymita, Cuba's beautiful painted snails, evolve. Herpetologist Roberto "Tony" Ramos has the dangerous duty of tracking the rarest of crocs, the "jumping" Cuban crocodile. One of the few American scientists working in Cuba is marine biologist David Guggenheim. He studies Cuba's vast network of coral reefs, the sign of a healthy ocean. According to scientific data, 25 percent of world's coral reefs have disappeared due to pollution. An estimated half of the coral population will be extinct or diseased in the next 25 years. But Cuba's coral reefs are thriving. To Guggenheim's surprise, he stumbles upon a spectacular elkhorn coral, now one of the rarest corals in the world. He and his fellow scientists hope that through their research and government policies, Cuba will serve as a conservation model throughout the Caribbean.
"There are few accidents in nature," said Fred Kaufman, Nature Executive Producer. "But if there is one, Cuba's beguiling wildlife is one to behold."
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