by Dr. Thomas Rainwater on April 23, 2010

dermatemys_captured_on_the_temash_river04.20.10

We’ve been in the field for a week and have surveyed 4 rivers in the south of Belize: the Rio Grande, Golden Stream, Moho River, and Temash River.  Multiple NGOs in southern Belize have been extremely helpful during our time here, and we would have been much less productive without their significant assistance. 

rio_grande_toledo_district_belize04.17.10

Vince and Cherie Rose of the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) have allowed us to use their facility (on the Rio Grande) as a base of operations while working here in the south, and this has allowed to us to be much more efficient.  ACES has also generously provided equipment, access to the internet, and logistical support during our stay.  Nick Wicks (Ya’axché) provided a ranger to accompany us at all times during our operations in the Punta Gorda area for both assistance with surveys and to confirm to locals that our activities (e.g., netting) are research-oriented and supported by the government.  Nick also put us in touch with other local NGOs that have been vital to our work so far.  Particularly, Celia Mahung and Elmar Requena at the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) and Doyle Forman at the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) have provided critical logistical support in most of the rivers we have surveyed so far.  

On April 15, we surveyed the Rio Grande with assistance (boat and rangers) from TIDE and encountered 8 Dermatemys in the middle section of the river.  We also encountered a large Staurotypus triporcatus.  The following two days we deployed trammel nets in this area but caught no turtles.  Surprisingly, we did capture numerous (~ 50) jellyfish, approximately 20 km upriver.

netting_in_the_rio_grande04.17.10
netting_on_the_rio_grande04.17.10

On April 18th, we conducted a diurnal survey of various stretches of the Rio Grande where a local fisherman legally and reliably captures Dermatemys during the day every year.  We saw none, but did see three Trachemys venusta.  That evening, we accompanied TIDE rangers on a routine patrol and surveyed a large portion of Golden Stream.  We saw no turtles there.

On April 19th, we surveyed a stretch of the Moho River by canoe and encountered one juvenile Dermatemys.  We also encountered another Staurotypus.

belizean_researcher_tom_pop_with_captured_dermatemys_on_the_temash_river04.20.10
dermatemys_captured_on_the_temash_river_toledo_belize04.20.10

On April 20th, we joined SATIIM and the Belize Defense Force (BDF) on a patrol and surveyed a 20 km stretch of the Temash River.  We did some snorkeling and diving prior to the survey and saw firsthand how deep this river is (like most in the southern Belize lowlands). We encountered 6 Dermatemys during the survey, including a 44.1 cm straight-line carapace length (CL) male that we were able to capture.  We also observed another Trachemys.

We now plan to work our way north and hopefully survey additional southern rivers along the way, although our tight schedule will not allow us to survey them all or any one river in its entirety.   

– Dr. Thomas Rainwater