By Aaron Humes: Especially prized as a source of game meat, the Central American River Turtle (Hicatee) remains critically endangered.
To bring awareness to its survival, Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), Turtle Survival Alliance and others are conducting activities in observance of Hicatee Awareness Month, first celebrated six years ago.
BFREE, with support from the Hicatee Awareness Month Planning Committee, has distributed educational resource packets directly to 50 schools and electronically to 542 schools throughout Belize, reaching students in all six districts.
Over the last three years, BFREE has successfully released 415 captive-born and raised Hicatee turtles in five different water bodies in Central Belize. These turtles have been reintroduced into two watersheds where their populations have been severely depleted. Reintroduction programs include both short and long-term monitoring to determine the success of this project. Several of the releases included the participation of community members to further expand outreach efforts.
Belizeans, especially those living along river ways, are asked to take ownership of these sources of biodiversity. Healthy rivers and watersheds with forested edges that are free from litter are essential to thriving ecosystems which are home to Hicatee and other native wildlife like fish, river otters, and crocodiles. Clean and healthy rivers benefit all of us.
This October, BFREE encourages all to join in their conservation efforts and take action by following them on social media, and promising to support the development of these animals by cleaning up rivers and other waterways and ensuring they are healthy.
To access the educational resources and for more information on how you can take action, please visit www.bfreebz.org/hicatee-resources/. For more info, visit www.bfreebz.org.