The start of this October marked the beginning of the 7th annual Hicatee Awareness Month campaign. Kicking off this initiative, Barney Hall and I embarked on a journey to the western part of Belize, focusing our efforts on regions notorious for the harvesting of Hicatee turtles for consumption. Our initial step involved seeking permission from these schools to conduct our classroom visits.
Our primary goal was to raise awareness through educational outreach, and we did so with the help of an interactive PowerPoint presentation. Throughout our visit, we emphasized key facets of Hicatee conservation. This included promoting the recognition of the Hicatee turtle and its status, highlighting the laws designed to safeguard this species, and showcasing the ongoing conservation efforts taking place in Belize. Most importantly, we aimed to leave a lasting impact on the students, with the hope of sparking a sense of motivation within them to become the next generation of dedicated conservationists.
Our educational journey spanned across several locations, encompassing schools in Belmopan City, Roaring Creek Village, Teakettle Village, Spanish Lookout Community, Valley of Peace Village, Blackman Eddy Village, Ontario Village, Georgeville Village, Santa Elena Town, and El Progresso Village. In the span of just five days, we had the privilege of visiting 14 schools and reaching a total of 581 students.
The response to our presentation was nothing short of heartwarming. Both students and teachers expressed their eagerness to learn more about this remarkable turtle and called for stronger enforcement of the laws established to protect and ensure the long-term survival of this critically endangered species. Here are some of the encouraging comments we received:
“The entire presentation was engaging and informative. I liked the interaction throughout the session.” – Valley of Peace Community School
“Enforce the laws that are set in place to protect the Hicatee turtles.” – St. Martin de Porres R.C School
“Excellent job! Come more often.” – Our Lady of Guadeloupe High School
“Very good job! Keep up the good work.” – Eden S.D.A High School
As we journey onward in our outreach campaign, we are firmly committed to fostering a nationwide recognition of this unique turtle that is literally being eaten to extinction. To contribute meaningfully to the preservation of the Hicatee turtles, we recognize the importance of engaging community members of all ages, backgrounds, and professions in our conservation and research initiatives. This collaborative approach holds the key to advancing the conservation efforts for the Hicatee and securing its future in Belize and throughout its geographic range.