The Central American river turtle or the “hickatee,” Tortuga Blanca meaning “white turtle” is a nocturnal aquatic turtle that lives in the rivers and streams of Central America from southern Mexico to northern Honduras. It spends its entire life in or on the water,  EVEN SLEEPING managing to still stay afloat, with the exception of laying eggs.

The hickatee is the only living species of the Dermatemydidae family. Its closest relatives are only known from fossils.

This freshwater turtle has been heavily harvested for primarily its meat, but also its eggs and shells. Due to this heavy harvesting, the hickatee has been put on the Endangered Species List, and is listed as critically endangered.

Family order

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Sauropsida

Order: Testudines

Suborder: Cryptodira

Family: Dermatemydidae

Genus: Dermatemys

Species: D. mawii

Reproduction Pattern

Mating and nesting occurs between the duration of September to November. Flooding is necessary during this time. The females must lay their eggs on the banks of waterways, and must rely on flooding to reach these areas. The females will lay anywhere from 6-20 eggs.

Weight and Size Distribution Along with Markings

This fairly large turtle species attains a maximum carapace length of 25 inches and can weigh up to 44 pounds. Males can be differentiated from females by yellow markings on either side of their head. They also have a longer and thicker tail. The female is somewhat smaller, with a shorter tail and a gray head without the yellow marking like the male. What the male and female do have in common is the spotty insignia on their bodies.  The carapace of the female is either brown or olive drab, and is only slightly curved; the ventral shell is cream-colored.

Conservation Efforts

There aren’t many laws against hunting these endangered animals, but the fisheries department in Belize has marked the month of May as a closed season for hickatee hunting. All restaurants, food vending establishments, and the general public are informed that the sale and purchase of hickatee from May 1st to May 31st is prohibited under the Fisheries Law.

There are some conservation efforts in Belize that started in 2011 initiated by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). This is a low maintenance operation focused on Dermatemys food plants, while exploring husbandry details, such as egg laying and incubation.  This effort is located within 4 protected areas (1,200 acres) including Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Reserve (WHERE WE WILL BE STAYING)!

The goal of the program is to generate hatchlings and release them to repopulate the already depleted wild populations and hopefully, in the long run, relieve the stresses on the species in the natural environment.


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(PICTURE: http://www.google.com/search?q=hickatee+turtle&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=9hCoUb_dCuiQ0QG8zoDwCg&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1135&bih=529#facrc=_&imgrc=IPk2ez7NEMY5iM%3A%3BUKKeZj5bejqLpM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Ffarm3.staticflickr.com%252F2011%252F1580532154_0acb8c6f82_z.jpg%253Fzz%253D1%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.flickr.com%252Fphotos%252Fcourtneyplatt%252F1580532154%252F%3B640%3B417 )