hicatee toolkit Be a Hicatee Hero, Take Action to #SaveTheHicatee Today!

Image by Dustin Smith


The Central American River Turtle, known in Belize as the Hicatee is the only living species in an ancient family dating back 65 million years ago. Once widespread they now exist as remnant populations in parts of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. The species is undergoing rapid decline due to hunting. It is now critically endangered, in need of greater protection and innovative conservation actions. Belize offers the highest chance for its survival. The Turtle Survival Alliance, BFREE and members of the Hicatee Conservation Network are working in Belize to understand the reproductive biology of the species, with the goal of developing large scale sustainable captive breeding populations to take pressure off of wild populations. The time is now. We need to preserve the hicatee, the last of its kind, for future generations.


This year we are shell-ebrating the first ever Hicatee Awareness Month! We've built The Hicatee Toolkit to include several turtley awesome opportunities for anyone to participate in the activities and events planned during the month of October.

save the date: October 17, 2017 is national hicatee day!

You can be a Hicatee Hero and support the efforts to prevent the extinction of this critical endangered species. Find more ways to get involved below!

Students from Nebraska Wesleyan University signed the Save the Hicatee banner after taking the Hicatee Pledge. You can have your name added to the banner too, just let us know you took the pledge by sharing a #Shellfie! Image by Nellie Cadle.

Be a Hicatee Hero, Participate in one of the Activities Below

This trailer shares a brief introduction to the film, ‘Hope for Belize’s Hicatee: Central American River Turtle,’ a 16-minute natural history film that will be released ‪on October 2, 2017‬.

‘Hope for Belize’s Hicatee,’ features a critically endangered turtle species being intensely harvested for its meat. This film highlights the cultural significance of the hicatee in Belize, the environmental pressures propelling it toward extinction as well as the current work being done in Belize to save the species.

Viewing Parties:

Hosting a viewing party is an easy way you can support Hicatee Awareness Month. Pick a date, invite your friends and then send us a #Shellfie (group photo)!

  1. The film will be available to watch for free beginning October 2, 2017 here: 'Hope for Belize's Hicatee'
  2. Choose a date and location to watch the film and invite your friends and family.
  3. Let us know you are hosting a viewing party for your chance to win prizes! Share a #Shellfie or group picture of your viewing party on social media or email us at contact@bfreebz.org for your group to be entered into a raffle!

Interested in hicatee facts to share at your viewing party? Click the Hicatee Resources button!

Students from Fabiano Cayetano RC School in Bladen Village take turns signing their names to the Save the Hicatee banner after taking the Hicatee Pledge at the BFREE Field Station. Image by Heather Barrett.

Take the pledge today to save the hicatee! Our goal is to add over 1,000 signatures to our banner. Help us reach our goal by taking the Hicatee Pledge today, it's as easy as 1-2-3!

Take the Pledge:

  1. Read the Hicatee Pledge below.
  2. Let us know you agree with the Hicatee Pledge. Send us a #Shellfie! Take a picture of yourself wearing something green for Hicatees, post it to Facebook or Instagram and let your friends know you took the Hicatee Pledge and that they can too! We will also enter your name into a raffle to win turtley awesome prizes!
  3. Once you have shared your photo (be sure to use the hashtag #Shellfie so that we see it!) we will then add your name to the banner! Not on social media? Not a problem, send us an email to contact@bfreebz.org


  • Hicatee turtles are not pets. Hicatees depend on their natural habitats and food resources in freshwater rivers and lagoons in order to remain healthy.
  • Captive Breeding should be left to the experts. Hicatee turtles in captivity require specialized care, examinations and support. The captive breeding facility at the BFREE Field Station, Hicatee Conservation and Research Center (HCRC), is overseen by scientists, veterinarians and specialists who are working to understand the captive needs of this unique turtle.
  • All laws in Belize relating to the Hicatee should be followed. More people should respect the wildlife laws. Regulations should be more strict to keep the hicatee from going extinct.
  • Hicatee turtles should be the national reptile of Belize. Like Baird’s tapir and the Keel-billed toucan, Hicatee turtles are culturally important. They should be celebrated and protected as our national reptile.


Let us know you signed the pledge, share a #shellfiE
HCRC Manager, Tom Pop shows off just a few of the latest hatchlings that were born in June 2017. Adopt and name one of these critically endangered turtles! Image by Shaman Marlin.

Name a turtle

Host a fundraiser to adopt and name a turtle. Your event can help support the care of resident adult and juvenile turtles AND ensure hicatee research continues at the HCRC. With 80 hatchlings this year alone, the turtles need you!

Raise a minimum of $1,000 and your hatchling's name will be engraved on a plaque at the HCRC. Each turtle is marked with with an identification number. We will send you a photo of your turtle along with your turtle's identification number so that you can follow its progress for years to come!

Turn your Viewing Party into a fundraiser and you and your friends can name a turtle together! Or get creative, fundraisers can happen in many ways.

  1. Raise a minimum of $1,000 to donate to the HCRC by December 15th!
  2. Send your donation via check or credit card along with your chosen turtle's name, your name and email address here.
  3. We will send you a picture of your turtle and engrave your turtle's name on a plaque at the HCRC.
Click the button below to learn how you can send a check or donation to the HCRC

Email contact@bfreebz.org for any questions.

visit the hcrc

The Hicatee Conservation & Research Center (HCRC) was created in 2013 as a joint effort between BFREE and TSA to launch a multi-prong conservation effort to halt the decline of the turtle and investigate the reproductive biology and nesting ecology of this little known species. The HCRC is the only facility of its kind in the world and is currently home to over 100 critically endangered hicatee turtles.

BFREE invites you to support the important research taking place at the HCRC. We offer volunteer and intern opportunities working directly with the turtles, eco-tours, or send a donation to support the ongoing work. If you would like to visit the HCRC, please contact us by email.

Email: contact@bfreebz.org for more information
Images left to right by Tyler Sanville, Heather Barrett, Ben Atkinson

BFREE would like to extend a special thanks to Carol and Richard FosterColumbus Zoo & Aquarium Conservation Fund, Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, the many members of the Hicatee Conservation Network and to all of you for becoming Hicatee Heroes!

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