Disabled Cuban children adopt jaguar and snakes as pets for therapy

Parents and teachers in Cuba said that baby jaguar and intricately coloured endemic boa known as the 'Maja' are among the exotic animals at Cuba's national zoo that provide unusually effective therapy to children with special requirements.

Disabled Cuban children adopt jaguar and snakes as pets for therapy Picture Credit-Reuters

Parents and teachers in Cuba said that baby jaguar and intricately coloured endemic boa known as the ‘Maja’ are among the exotic animals at Cuba’s national zoo that provide unusually effective therapy to children with special requirements.

According to the zookeepers, children adopt the jaguars as pets and play with their paws, stroke the cool, moist skin of snakes, and give milk to a zebu cow as part of a program aiming to aid the people with the special requirements overcome fears.

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As per the statement released by zoo development director and animal therapy specialist Yaima Pueblas, “In the Americas, we are forerunners in working with these exotic species.”

“Other than breaking barriers of fear among people, it also encourages them to put their concern and protect the environment.”

Meanwhile, teachers and parents said that the programme had proven a rare bright spot for children with Down’s syndrome, autism, and other special requirements, especially during the tough times on the Caribbean island hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic economic crisis.

The programme runs without charging anything in Cuba, where education of all levels is directly funded by the state.

As per a teacher Maraidis Ramirez, “they are inspired to come to the zoo, and during the classroom, the progress in them could be easily seen.”

According to Javier Lavaumena, whose son has attended the programme said, “the program has changed the direction of my son’s life. We have witnessed great achievements among the children. they have made changes in their lives, at school and at home.”

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Moreover, Cuba’s National Zoo is one of the most considerable attractions for the Cubans, with 1,473 specimens of over 120 species, including big animals such as elephants and rhinos as well.