Nature: Cuba’s Wild Revolution

Air date: 04/01/2020

Nature: Cuba’s Wild Revolution

Premieres Wednesday, April 1 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

As the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba is host to spectacular wildlife found nowhere else on the planet: from the jumping crocodiles of the Zapata swamp to the world’s tiniest hummingbird, from thousands of migrating crabs to giant, bat-eating boas that lie in wait for easy prey. Decades of a socialist, conservation-minded government, American embargoes and minimal development have left the island virtually unchanged for 50 years and teeming with exotic biodiversity. As international relations ease, what will become of this wildlife sanctuary?

Running Time: 60 minutes

Featured Creatures:
Green turtle
Bee hummingbird
Cuban Rock iguana
Tropical House gecko
Red land crab
Monte Iberia eleuth
Cuban flower bat
Cuban boa
West Indian woodpecker
Cuban Green woodpecker
Gar fish
Cuban crocodile

Noteworthy Facts:

Nesting for a female Green turtle is dangerous and exhausting as they aren’t equipped for land. After two hours of digging on the shore she will lay 80-200 eggs and then leave them behind.

Zapata, the largest protected area in the Caribbean, is home to the Bee hummingbird, which is the smallest bird on earth. This hummingbird can beat its tiny wings 80 times per second.

Woodpeckers are known to kill the chicks of other woodpeckers and take over their nest.

Cuba has its own species of crocodile, the Cuban crocodile, which is extremely agile and can sprint almost 10 miles an hour.

The Monte Iberia eleuth is one of the smallest frogs in the world. A half-inch long when fully grown, this pint-size frog survives the rainforest by discouraging predators with its poisonous and foul-tasting skin.

Buzzworthy Moments:

Breeding season is chaotic for the male Cuban Rock iguanas. The male iguanas fight each other over who gets to mate with the females. The fight is a test of strength and endurance that ends with the dominant male iguana winning the lady.

An army of Red land crabs are on the move towards the ocean, many carrying up to 80,000 eggs apiece that need salt water to survive. The journey is perilous; as the crabs make their way to the ocean, many of them are run over in oncoming traffic.

A Cuban boa enters a cave full of bats in pursuit of its next meal. In the pitch-dark cave, the snake uses its heat receptors to detect the bats, while the bats use echolocation to detect the boa. As the bats make a dash for the exit, the snake lunges to catch one and eventually succeeds. The snake then finishes off the bat with its powerful embrace, killing it in seconds.

Two months have passed since the mother Green turtle laid her eggs. The baby turtles have begun to hatch, and with no mother around and limited vision the hatchlings must use their sense of smell and sound to guide them to the sea. They must avoid predators, such as hawks, on the journey. On average, only one in a thousand hatchlings will make it to adulthood.

Long TV Listing:
In the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, Cuba is an island teeming with exotic biodiversity: from coral reefs pulsating with life to five-foot-long Cuban rock iguanas. As international relations ease, what will become of this wildlife sanctuary?

Short TV Listing:
Get a glimpse of Cuba’s spectacular wildlife and landscapes, left virtually untouched for 50 years.

Series Overview:
is a voice for the natural world, bringing the wonders of wildlife and stories of conservation to millions of American viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 18 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor.

Production Credits:
Cuba’s Wild Revolution is a production of Crossing the Line Productions and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC in association with WNET, ORF-UNIVERSUM, FRANCE TÉLÉVISIONS, DR, SVT, RTÉ, BBC. The documentary is produced by John Murray, Ciara Baker and Cepa Giblin. Olga Merediz is narrator.

Produced with the support of Creative Europe – Media Programme of the European Union and with the support of Incentives for the Irish Film Industry provided by the Government of Ireland. Additional financial support for this episode is provided by The Arnhold Family in memory of Henry and Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, The Fairweather Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, Doris R. and Robert J. Thomas, The M. & H. Sommer Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by public television viewers.


About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

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Female Bee hummingbird in nest. Bee hummingbirds are the smallest bird on Earth and females lay one or two eggs the size of coffee beans. Zapata, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Close up of a Western cliff anole, a lizard species native to Western Cuba. Viñales, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Three Cuban rock iguanas together on the beach of Cayo Iguana, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Green turtle hatchling on a sandy beach of Cayo Largo, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Shark swimming through a coral reef. Jardines de La Reina, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Close up of a Cuban rock iguana on the beach of Cayo Iguana, Cuba. These iguanas can grow almost five feet long. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Red land crab crossing a road during annual migration to the sea. Bay of Pigs, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Cuban tody perched on a branch. Zapata, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Cuban pygmy owl pokes its head out of tree hole nest. Zapata, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Close up of a Hutia, one of only two native land mammals found in Cuba. Jardines de La Reina, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

American crocodile. As sea levels rise, American crocodiles are invading the freshwater swamps and interbreeding with the Cuban crocodile females threatening to wipe out the Cuban species. Jardines de La Reina, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd

Male Bee hummingbird in flight. Bee hummingbirds can beat their tiny wings 80 times per second. Zapata, Cuba. Credit: © Crossing the Line Productions Ltd