Wildlife Watch: Endangered Cuban Solenodon

December 19, 2013
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Guests on IE's people-to-people Cuba tour may be suprised to learn that although Cuba has many endemic bird species, there aren't many mammal species endemic to the island nation. One little mammalian creature who does call Cuba home is the Cuban solenodon, a curious looking rodent with a powerful bite and an interesting history.

The creature that you may be familiar with that most resembles the Cuban solenodon is the shrew, but the island species is much larger than the little mice-like shrews we have here in the U.S. They do have the signature long nose, and typically weigh about 2.20 pounds. They're brown in color, and you may have a hard time glimpsing them, since they are nocturnal.

Cuban solenodons live in rock clefts, hollow trees or burrows, where they while away the daylight hours. The little creatures are quick, and can move quickly on the ground or scale surfaces to reach greater heights. But what truly makes the Cuban solenodon unique is the way it hunts.

These rodents have toxic saliva which they use to stun their prey. They're not solely vicious, venomous killers though. As omnivores, they use their elongated nose to sniff for roots, insects, fruit and leaves. They'll also dine on the occasional small lizard.

Unfortunately, the animal is quite rare, so don't expect to see it when you travel to Cuba. In fact, in the 1970s it was believed that the Cuban solenodon was completely extinct due to its slow reproduction rate and the introduction of predators to Cuba, such as the mongoose. House cats and dogs are also responsible for their decline. Fortunately, in 2003, an individual Cuban solenodon was captured, proving that it was not, in fact, extinct. They're now protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which has marked their status as "Endangered."