Recognizing the severe pressures that wild populations of the Central American River Turtle – locally known as Hicatee – face due to human consumption, and given the catastrophic declines throughout their range, the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) determined that techniques should be developed to breed and manage this species in captivity. After frustrating attempts to launch a program in Mexico, efforts switched to Belize. In 2013, TSA and BFREE developed a partnership to create the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center (HCRC) at the BFREE Field Station in order to investigate the reproductive biology of the species with the goal of building assurance colonies to aid in reintroductions.
Our intention has been to develop the captive management protocols followed by a recovery plan in Belize and, once successful, BFREE and TSA would attempt to expand those methods into Guatemala and Mexico. The HCRC is the only facility in Belize maintaining Hicatee in captivity to study aspects of its biology and behavior. The HCRC presently has 45 breeding adults and has produced over 600 turtles spanning six year-classes.
Below are the staff of BFREE who manage operations of the Hicatee Conservation & Research Center.