You bet. Prove that I´m not making fool of you lives in a backyard in Tulipán neighborhood, west of Cienfuegos city.
There it shares the reduced space in which José López Azpiri has created a small sanctuary for animals which are sick, born with deformities or were victims of human depredation. Flipper, which is the name of this sea turtle, was brought here six years ago, being barely 2 centimeters long.
“It was found along with three of its brothers in Yaguanabo beach, where the nest seemed to have been spoiled. They were brought to me and I gave them special care”. Known due to his love to animals, José used to mixing in a fish bowl sea and fresh water. He is called Pepe Zoo or Pepe Crocodile, since he also has one of these animals in his backyard over a decade ago.
“But in January, during the cold wave they began weakening and I lost three of them. Flipper was the only one left; I heated water for him and brought him inside the house. Then he recovered and adapted to fresh water. That happened 5 years ago and you can see how healthy he looks.”
The sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricada) is a marine species within the chelonian family. They spend their lives in open sea, but they are usually found in shallow ponds and coral reefs, where they found their favorite preys: sea sponges.
Their scientific name also takes us to the sea, since the Eretmochelys genre comes from the Greek words eretmo (rowing) and chelys (tortoise), due to their front flippers resembling oars.
In aquariums within the Indian- Pacific region, also in our continent as well as those in Cuba they are kept in sea water… that is why seeing one of them in fresh water becomes an incredible adaptation.
Flipper: one among many rescued animals.
Birds like the Arriero or the Guincho (daylight predators) endemic and endangered species share their lives in this backyard; some, like the Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus Rhombifer) named Castillo after his owner, have been there over a decade.
A Santamaría snake, endemic ophidian considered the largest reptile of its genre in Cuba, or the Catey parakeet (Aratinga euops), endemic and considered as to being “critically endangered” whose numbers in our rain forests dropped drastically due to vulture hunting and sales and a wild dove, both found with broken wings, remain with Pepe Zoo.
Also a pelican, a victim found wounded in a coast road and who answers by the name of “Alcatraz”…
And also many people oppose to captivity, states Pepe, we are talking about animals damaged in natural disasters such as the case of a parrot that was injured during hurricane Dennis that he cures and which if returned to their natural habitat would be in disadvantage.
That is the case of Flipper, the sea turtle included in appendix one of the Convention for the International Trade of Flora and Fauna Endangered Species (CITES), which registers the species that are in extreme danger and fully prohibits their commercialization.
Although in Cuba, recent data from the Institute for Marine Research on the size and distribution of these animals show scientifically the existence of 100 000 animals older than a year, which means that this species is not exactly endangered in our country.
A proposal is being elaborated to the CITES convention for the trade of the shells, of course under strict rationalization and control.
Criteria that have been valid to Pepe for the survival of Flipper for six years… although this marine turtle does not share one of the characteristics of its equals anymore: preference for sea water but it fully enjoys the small pool in which his owner saved him using fresh water.