News: Experiencing The Wild Side of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is home to all kinds of creatures that a typical military base wouldn't house. Ranging from iguanas that are almost the size of Godzilla, to various types of Caribbean Boas, this base is like a free zoo to the Troopers stationed here. The base has strict rules to protect these species and provides a safe habitat for them to live in. Guantanamo Bay naval base is home to 8 percent of the population of these species of iguanas in Cuba due to its safe habitat.
Dr. Peter Tolson, director of conservation and research at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio, came down to the base, Nov. 22, to give the residents an educational show on the reptiles that live among us. Dr. Tolson has been coming to Guantanamo Bay for the last 10 years to give his presentation and perform research on the Caribbean Boa and other various species of animals. Tolson has a history with this base that inspired him to get into his current career field.
"I got stationed down here as a Marine back in the day and fell in love with the wildlife here. The Marines arranged two visits down to the base for a famous herpetologist to work with me and I realized that you can make a living do this kind of thing. So when I got out of the Marine Corps I went to college on my G.I. Bill and now I'm back here doing what I love," said Tolson.
Tolson has worked with various Navy bases over the years helping them take care of endangered species and providing the base tips to ensure the animals live in safe environments.
The team got here two weeks ago and had to capture all the animals for the demonstration. Tolson had to use his training to track down some of these rare creatures.
"I know about where to go, but we were fortunate this past week by getting some rain. A lot a times during dry periods the animals will hold up and they don't come out but since we did get some rain, a lot of the rare animals that might live underground came out and gave us the opportunity to capture some of the rare stuff on this trip," said Tolson.
A group gathered as Tolson and his two trained teammates provided interesting facts and walked around giving the crowd a chance to get up close and personal with the creatures.
"I think people seemed really interested about the animals. What was nice was the fact that hardly anybody was afraid of the creatures. Almost everybody wanted to pet the snakes including the little kids down here at the naval base. Everybody seems to have a good time seeing these rare species that they normally don't see down here on a regular basis," said Tolson.
Jay Wagner, Tolson's teammate and reptile enthusiast, said, "I thought it went great and we had a good turnout. It's always good to see people ask questions and let them know that these things aren't the mean, nasty and vicious creatures that people think they are."
Dr. Tolson tries to give these presentations twice a year at Guantanamo to show off the inhabitants that Troopers see every day.
For more information about Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit the Web site at www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil