Conservation worker measure an endangered hicatee turtle

The Hicatee Turtle has been over-hunted and is now on the brink of extinction. That is the core message behind Ya’axche Conservation Trust (YCT)’s campaign to save this local treasure.

The trust’s Protected Areas Manager, Lee McLoughlin, described the severity of this matter to Reporter on Thursday, January 13.

He said Thomas Rainwater, a reptile researcher, had completed a Turtle-Survival-Alliance-funded survey of the turtles last June, and the results, when compared to the stats from the 1980’s, show there has been a drastic decline in the number of hicatee turtles that can be found in Belize.

What is most staggering is the fact that areas such as the Crooked Tree, and other communities found within the Belize River Valley Area, once had abundant populations of this turtle, but according to McLoughlin the present-day figures are closer to zero.

YCT’s campaign, involves a network of other conservation groups and is scheduled to kick off next week (January 17-21) with the University of Belize leading the way.

The first national campaign carries an educational focus and is looking at informing the Belizean public of the near-extinction numbers of this animal. YCT also intends to appeal to the consciences of the individuals who hunt the turtle.

So as to get as many individuals involved, the campaign’s initial stages will include a slogan competition, several talk show appearances, the creation of bumper stickers and any other means that can help them get the preservation message broadcasted.

McLoughlin also pointed out that the trust intends to petition government for an extension of the “off season” established, when the hunting hicatees is banned as illegal.

McLoughlin said currently there’s only one month in which hunting hicatees is restricted and this “no-hunting” period needs to be extended.

Although YCT believes that time is too long, McLoughlin said the campaign isn’t suggesting a total ban on hunting, but YCT is definitely advocating moderation.

McLoughlin mentioned the significant role that protected areas have played in preserving this docile animal. “In protected areas like Gallon Jug, the turtles are in abundance,” he said.

The Reporter