Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2018. 8:00 p.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: October is commemorated as Hicatee Awareness Month and this is the second year that it is being celebrated in the country.
The Turtle Survival Alliance and the Belize Foundation for Research & Environmental Education ( BFREE) have scheduled activities and events this month that will honor the beloved Central American River Turtle, known as the ‘Hicatee’ in Belize.
This year’s message encourages national pride of this rare species by seeking to establish the Hicatee as the ‘National Reptile of Belize’.
The Hicatee is currently considered to be at the highest risk of extinction as it is aggressively hunted by locals in Belize due to its meat being a delicacy. The turtle is also being eaten to extinction across its limited range.
Although it is believed that the Hicatee still exists in very small populations in northern Guatemala and southern Mexico, its stronghold is in Belize. Therefore, the future of the species depends on the actions of those who live in and visit Belize.
The BFREE says that as the country’s national reptile, the Hicatee’s public status would be elevated and the stage would be set for national pride of this rare and unique species. Just as the Tapir and Toucan are revered and protected due to their status as the national animal and national bird, the Hicatee would be revered and protected if recognized as the national reptile.
The BFREE distributed educational packets to 100 preschools and primary schools in Cayo and Belize Districts – areas in which the Hicatees have historically been found.
Packets included classroom resources like activity pages and fact sheets about the Hicatee and other valuable and endangered wildlife found in Belize.
“Herbert the Hickatee,” a book written by Gianni Martinez, a teacher at St. Mary’s School in Belize City, is featured in the packets.
Also included is a national competition for students to design the 2019 Hicatee Awareness Month poster.
Belizeans and global partners are being encouraged to help save the Hicatee from extinction.
“By making this our national reptile, future generations and leaders will recognize the important cultural and historic value of the Hicatee turtle – Belize’s National Treasure. The hicatee is disappearing, but together we can save it,” the BFREE notes.
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