22nd August, 2015- a much awaited day by all of us, the Semester I students of F.Y.B.Sc.- finally dawned! We were all set to go for a one day field visit to Cotigao Sanctuary in Canacona, Goa along with the Semester V students of Botany, accompanied by two lecturers from the Department of Botany of our College.

Located in Canacona Taluka – the Southern most taluka of Goa (South Goa district)- bordering Karnataka, is Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary which is spread over an area of approximately 86 sq km. It was notified as a protected area in 1969.This sanctuary is the second largest wild life reserve in Goa. The area is dominated by moist deciduous forests with few evergreen and semi-evergreen patches interspersed among the moist deciduous flora.

At the entrance of the sanctuary is an eco-tourism complex which has a nature interpretation centre. During the visit we got to know the names of many plants, their economic & ecological values, and medicinal importance. There was a complex assemblage of Fungi and   plants like Bryophytes, Pteridophytes and an overwhelming concoction of the flowering plants called Angiosperms.

The fungal group was mainly represented by fruiting bodies of Basidiomycetes having fascinating shapes and color combinations which were macroscopic and growing among the forest litter, barks of trees and even on decaying fallen wood. These fungal elements contribute to the ecosystem by releasing the locked up minerals within the substratum by degradation – a process called the Bio Geo Chemical Cycle.

There was an abundance of Fungi and Bryophytes growing almost in each and every nook & corner of the forest. We could see grey colored crustose lichens on tree barks.Fruiting bodies of fungi like Ganoderma was abundant on fallen logs. A beautiful fruiting body of the fungus called Phallus (Dictyophora) was an exiting site in the forest. Mosses like Bryum, Fissidens etc. were most common, whereas liverworts were very few in their diversity. Among liverworts, Cyathodium was of common occurrence. Herbaceous ferns like Selaginella & Nephrolepis, climbing ferns like Lygodium, epiphytic ferns like Drynaria etc. wereabundant everywhere. Gnetum ula which is a rare climbing Gymnosperm was seen growing at one part of the sanctuary.

Plants like Terminalia tomentosa or T. crenulata (Crocodile bark tree) Terminalia paniculata & Terminalia bellerica could be sited at different places. The fruit of the crocodile bark tree had strewn all over the ground which had wing like extentions that helped the fruit in wind dispersal. Teak – Tectona grandis of Verbenaceae – which yields a highly priced commercial timber was also growing at certain areas within the sanctuary. In addition to this, Amla (Phyllanthus emblica of the family Euphorbiaceae), a partial root parasite – Striga from the family Orobanchaceae- which hosts on grasses, medicinal herbs like Sida rhombifolia from Malvaceae which yields drug for rheumatism and the leaves of which when smashed yields a good hair conditioner- all were around us. Herbs like Naregamia alata from Meliaceae, tree forms like Ficus benghalensis, climbing species like Bauhinia sp. (Caesalpineae) and Zizyphus rugosa (Rhamnaceae). Callicopteris floribunda which is a climbing shrub was growing luxuriantly within the sanctuary. Wild, herbaceous species of Impatiens from the family Balsaminaceae had a luxuriant growth within the forest.

The lesser known species by name Maesa indica (Myrsinaceae) was identified which is known to yield a de worming substance. Some of the endemic flora of the sanctuary included Hydnocarpus laurifolia, a tree having immense medicinal value and Flacourtia montana with edible fruits, both from family Flacourtiaceae.

Within the hideouts of the forests live many species of animals like Flying squirrel, White bellied Woodpecker etc.

The sanctuary is criss-crossed by many perennial streams which provide the ‘Elixir of Life’ to all the elements within- which infuse life into each and every living being – micro to macro. Talpona river originates here. Some tribal settlements of Velips & Kunbis occur within the forest.

Thus, this area is a rich heritage of Bio resources from unicellular to the multicellular, from the inconspicuous to the magnanimous, from the colourless to the colourful – Fungi, Plants and animals – which to a great extent decide the climate of the state. It has to be revered, respected, taken care of and conserved for you and for me and for the posterity. Itis a place where the invaluable repositories which are essential for our mere existence are nurtured and nourished free of cost!

The dictionary meaning of the word ‘Sanctuary’ is ‘Holy Place’! By now you all must have understood why such assemblages of flora and fauna are titled ‘Sanctuaries’! Live & Let Live. and Long Live the Sanctuaries!

By Licy Francisca Almeida & Flacita Coutinho – Semester I of F.Y. B.Sc.