Today BFREE and Turtle Survival Alliance are celebrating National Hicatee Day  as part of the third annual Hicatee Awareness Month. This year, we continue our theme, “Let’s Make the Hicatee our National Reptile.” The Central American River Turtle, locally known as the Hicatee, is a large, aquatic freshwater turtle. It is from a unique evolutionary lineage that dates back to the age of the dinosaurs. Once widespread, this turtle now exists only in small populations in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. The Hicatee is classified as Critically Endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction) and its main predator is man. This turtle is being eaten to extinction across its limited range. The Hicatee may be the planet’s most endangered reptile and Belize holds the best opportunity for its survival.

For this reason, we are promoting a campaign during Hicatee Awareness Month and beyond to formally establish the Hicatee turtle as the National Reptile of Belize, and thereby raise its public status and set the stage of national pride for this rare and unique species. Through our awareness campaign, we have created educational packets filled to the brim with useful resources for students of all ages to learn about the Hicatee turtle.  The packets include materials that have been created by scientists, filmmakers, students, educators, and passionate advocates. Over the last two years, BFREE has successfully mailed these packets to a total of 197 schools in Belize. These schools include include every pre and primary school located within the Cayo and Belize districts of Belize, districts where Hicatee turtles are most commonly found.


  • October 1, 2019

    3rd Annual Hicatee Awareness Month Begins

    The Hicatee may be the planet’s most endangered reptile. Join us in celebrating this incredible species and raising awareness all month long. The hicatee is disappearing, but together we can save it!

  • October 13, 2019

    TIDE Festival in Punta Gorda

    Visit the Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) booth to learn about CROCtober and Hicatee Awareness Month

    October 13, 2019

  • October 17, 2019

    National Hicatee Day

    Be a Hicatee Hero and share something you learned during Hicatee Awareness Month on your social media feed today.

  • October 20, 2019

    Independence High School Fair

    Visit the Crocodile Research Coaltion (CRC) and BFREE booth, IHS graduate, Nelly Cadle, will be representing BFREE at the fair.

    October 20, 2019

  • October 21, 2019

    Sacred Heart Junior College Student Lecture

    Jaren Serano, BFREE Science and Education Fellow will present on the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center.

  • October 28, 2019

    Caption contest ends

    The winner will be selected from our social media pages. Check the BFREE Facebook and Instagram to enter your caption on the hicatee photo.

    October 28, 2019


We would like to thank all of the Hicatee Heroes out there helping raise awarness to save the Hicatee.

The work at the HCRC is made possible with the support of the Turtle Survival Alliance. Their mission is to “transform passion for turtles into effective conservation action through a global network of living collections and recovery programs.” TSA’s work spans the globe & we are grateful to be their partner in Belize.

We are grateful to the many amazing partners and supporters who  have helped with everything from funding to training to health assessments: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Zoo New England, Oklahoma City Zoo, Missouri State University Turtle Ecology Lab, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Turtle Conservation Fund, Belize Aquaculture Limited, Disney Conservation Fund, PACT Belize, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic, South Carolina Aquarium , and the Belize Fisheries Department.

Thanks to those organizations and individuals who have created Hicatee turtle resource materials that we use during Hicatee Awareness Month and year-round! Zoo Miami, Lamanai Research Center, TIDE, NC Zoo, the University of Florida, Richard and Carol Foster, Gianni Martinez, Jaren Serano, and Brittany Robateau.

Finally, thanks to those partners who help with outreach on the ground: Sacred Heart Junior College, University of Belize, The Belize Zoo, Independence Junior College, the Crocodile Research Coalition, and the Hicatee Committee at Hummingbird Elementary School.