The Central American River Turtle is in decline across its range in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, and is listed as one of the top 25 most endangered species of freshwater turtle in the world. International and Belizean NGOs, Government organizations and Universities are working to ensure the long-term survival of the critically endangered Central American River Turtle (locally known as Hicatee), in Belize through a combination of legislative action, community enforcement and involvement, protection of key areas, population monitoring and augmentation, and essential natural history research.
In 2014, the Turtle Survival Alliance established an assurance colony, the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center (HCRC), in partnership with the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), on their biological reserve and field station. The HCRC comprises multiple large ponds that house a large adult breeding colony, an incubation facility, and grow-out ponds for hundreds of juveniles, successfully rearing Hicatee for eventual reintroduction to the wild.
In 2021, through land acquisitions, Turtle Survival Alliance and our partners Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and Re:Wild, purchased 12,140 ha of forested land surrounding Cox Lagoon, protecting the Lagoon and all that inhabit it. This acquisition is vital as a potential area recovery of the Central American River Turtle in the species’ first entirely protected habitat.
Some of the active partners working to ensure the survival of the species include (in alphabetical order):
Belize Fisheries Department, Belize Foundation for Research & Environmental Education, Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic, Hicatee Awareness Month Planning Committee, Independence Junior College, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Lamanai Research Station, Missouri State University, Re:Wild, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, The Belize Zoo, Turtle Survival Alliance, Wildlife Conservation Society – Belize, University of Belize, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, and Zoo New England