World Wetlands Day 2002: Trinidad and Tobago


Department of Natural Resources and Environment
Tobago House of Assembly

Report on World Wetlands Day 2002

This year, World Wetlands Day 2002 was celebrated on Friday 1st February 2002 with an Educational Exhibition for primary and secondary schools at the Scarborough NIB Mall, Tobago from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Exhibitors for the day were: the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Department of Tourism and NGO's Buccoo Reef Trust and Environment Tobago.

Activities for the day were organized around the theme for WWD 2002: "Wetlands - Water, life, Culture", and depicted the Cultural Heritage and Values of wetlands in Tobago. At the opening of the session, The Secretary for Agriculture, Marine Resources and Environment, Mr. Hughford McKenna brought welcome on behalf of the Tobago House of Assembly and the Ramsar Convention, stressing the importance of wetlands in the maintenance of our livelihood. He then launched the Trinidad and Tobago's National Wetlands Policy 2001, and presented to the Administrator of Education Division a Wondorous Wetlands Resource Book donated to the Assembly by the West Indian Whistling Duck Working Group of the Society of Caribbean Ornithology. This book is to be used as an educational tool by schoolteachers to incorporate wetlands education to the school's curriculum.

Mr. Hughford McKenna addressing the audience at the opening session.

The Curator of the Tobago Museum, Mr. Edward Hernandez, presented the feature lecture of the day. His presentation focused on the Cultural Heritage of Wetlands in Tobago, and highlighted how from the beginning of time life on earth was dependent on wetlands for its existence. He demonstrated with the use of maps, how human settlements in Tobago evolved around wetland areas as wetlands were seen are ecosystems that prospered, as the lands were fertile, providing sources of food, raw materials for building and shelter. Traditionally, the presence of The Frog indicated the land was fertile and unpolluted, and these were frequently present around wetlands.

From Archaeological investigations and evidence beneath the earth, it was predicted that the first settlers in Tobago settled in the South Western region of the island around the richest wetlands at the time, Bon Accord, Golden Grove, Kilgwyn, and Friendship.

Mr. Edward Hernandez showing human settlements around wetlands.

Following the feature address, Dr. Eastlyn Mckenzie and Ms Kenetta Bobb conducted a story telling session on Wetlands Folk Tales in Tobago. They enlightened the audience on how cultures in Tobago emanated from wetlands or "Swamps" as they were known to be. The highlighted the rich resources and wildlife around wetlands; the crabs, waterfowls, ducks, birds, the vegetation, particularly the Roseau, which is only found around wetlands and used in the past as a cobweb broom, while the flowers were used in pillows. Other vegetation, the Wild Indian beads also unique to wetlands, were used for making neck beads for mas playing at carnival time. The red and black mangroves were used for making upright and cross beams in Tapia houses, which were also made from mud form wetland areas.
In those days, swamps were synonymous with the term, Fairy Maids, a superstitious character, which was said to take away children, and were a good deterrent from anyone going into and destroying the swamps.

White Indian Beads found in wetlands

Throughout the day, children and the general public were further enthused by the exhibits on display from the various organizations. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment together with the Buccoo Reef Trust mounted a wetlands display model to demonstrate the functions and values of a wetland, and its potential threats from human developments. Other item on display by the various boots were WWD 2002 posters, supplied from the Ramsar Bureau, The Ramsar Poster Exhibition, other live displays included crab traps, Roseau plant, Wild Indian beads, Seagrass, mangrove seedlings and other brochure items.

Students at the World Wetlands Day 2002 Educational Exhibition.

The day was also exciting with lots of fun filled activities. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment developed a game entitled "Play Tobago" formulated around wetlands, which was very entertaining to the children. Other activities included, video showing, and PowerPoint presentation of the Ramsar 2002 presentation.

The day's programme was well attended by more than ten primary and secondary schools and the general public. As a follow up on wetland education, a workshop will be organized later in the year, for primary and secondary school teachers on introducing Wetlands Education in the schools curricula.

Students enjoying "Play Tobago"
Students having an appreciation of the wetland model display

Gillian John
Environmental Research Officer
Department of Natural Resources and Environment

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