the hicatee river turtle's plight

[ Guest post from student Linda E.]

Sharon recently e-mailed:
“I see posters going up all over Belmopan and Roaring Creek that this weekend there is to be an ‘iguana egg suck’ competition as well as the selling of hicatee for the Roaring Creek School. Reading the Wildlife laws of Belize, I notice that the hunting or molesting of any Belizean wildlife with young was strictly illegal (includes nest robbing), as was the selling of hicatee.”

SUNY Cortland is helping to save the hicatee river turtle from possible extinction. On Tuesday, April 7th from 5 to 7:30 PM a table was set up in Corey Union near the Dragon’s Court where a petition was available to sign. The petition’s intention was to pressure the Belizean government to enforce its wildlife laws and expand legislation, which will help protect endangered wildlife. More than 100 interested students, faculty and staff came out and signed the petition.

A general interest meeting for the Belize Zoo Project was held on Tuesday, April 14th, in Sperry Center. Ten enthusiastic student leaders attended to lay the groundwork for next year's efforts. They have formed a Student Government Organization and will begin work in the fall when the new academic year begins.

The hicatee (dermatemys mawii) is a Central American river turtle that is so aquatic that it spends its entire life in or on water except when it comes on shore to lay eggs (www.hickatee.com/hickatee.html). After depositing her eggs beneath a camouflage of rotting vegetation, the mother turtle returns to the river leaving the eggs to incubate and hatch.

The waterways of southern Mexico, northern Guatemala, and Belize's coastal lowlands are a natural habitat for these freshwater turtles. Belize has the highest recorded populations followed by Mexico; presently none were reported in Honduras. "The deeper and clearer the water the better, and Belize's outsized lagoons are considered by them to be prime residential areas" (www.hickatee.com/hickatee.html).

The hicatee faces extinction largely due to over hunting. The turtle is active at night and sleeps mainly during the daytime. As he floats lazily along, suddenly the hicatee is whacked by an oar and captured. The turtle is a much-prized meat and a traditional Belizean Easter meal. For these reasons, the hicatee is listed on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red-list as a critically endangered species.

Currently limited legislation protects the hicatee in Belize: a one-month closed season, no trading of hicatee meat, and a maximum of three per person to be caught.

"TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and Environment) is partnering with the Belize Fisheries Department, Ya’axche Conservation Trust, and local experts to draft a national recovery plan for Hicatee"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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