Wetland birds have been hunted for food sinceancient times, employing nets, bows and arrows,trained cats and birds of prey, amongst many othertechniques. On the temple bas-reliefs at Esna, fromFifth Dynasty Egypt, elaborate methods of huntingwaterfowl are depicted, including the use of domes-ticated geese as decoys, as well as decoys madefrom clay and feathers, to attract migrating birds toconcealed hunters. More recently, the popularity ofrecreational hunting, particularly in the developedworld, has led to concerns about the sustainability ofhunting practices and the need to maintain wetlandecosystems. Hunters
associations have often beeneffective in helping to sustain wild bird populationsand their wetland environment.Wetlands were used by early farmers as well,particularly in tropical and sub-tropical regions
often, but not always, sustainably, of course. In Belizeand Guatemala, the Maya were draining and culti-vating wetland soils some
years ago. In PapuaNew Guinea, research along the Wahgi River in theHighlands has yielded even earlier evidence
gar-den-size ditch-and-mound systems were constructed
years ago to grow a variety of different crops,whilst by about
years ago the system had
rom the earliest times, people have drawn uponthe wide variety of wetland fauna and flora fortheir subsistence
for food, fuel and the raw materi-als for shelter, clothing, ornament and other personalpossessions. Elephant bones from the Torralba mar-shes in Spain and the long wooden spears fromSchoningen in Germany offer dramatic evidence fromthe Early Palaeolithic era that our remote ancestorswere already hunting in the wetlands. At KalamboFalls on Lake Tanganyika, wood and plant remainsare well-preserved and remind us that early peoplewere also gathering plant foods and other resourcesfrom wetlands.Soon after the end of the last Ice Age, archaeo-logical sites in Japan show increasing use of wetlandresources. The site of Awazu in Lake Biwa (a Ram-sar site) consists mainly of a midden built up from theremains of shellfish
additional evidence of water-chestnuts, carp and catfish, turtles and ducks, indi-cates that these wetland foods made up a significantpart of the people
s diet.Sites in North America and northern Europeshow that people were fishing in wetlands at aboutthe same period. On the northwest coast of NorthAmerica, at Hoko River,
-year-old bentwoodand composite fish-hooks were found in recent exca-vations
experimental fishingby archaeologists and Makahtribal elders has demonstratedthat the bentwood hooks wereintended for catching Pacificcod, and the composite hooksfor catching flatfish. At Friesackin Germany nets were used,whereas from Kunda in Esto-nia two pike skeletons withbone points still embedded inthem indicate that fish therewere speared or harpooned. From Usvyaty in north-west Russia there is evidence reminiscent of Awazu:water chestnuts, and several fish species includingcarp, pike, zander and bream.
From the beginningof human history,people have turnedto wetlands tosustain their lives.
Transporting reeds used for roof thatching in Madagascar.
Wetlands as anearly source of food andraw materials
W W F - C A N O N / J O H N E . N E W B Y
T h e c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e o f w e t l a n d s