SACHI NAIK | NT BUZZ
Victor Hugo Gomes of Goa Chitra Museum has acquired a collection of more than 5000 shells, corals and fossils to add to their existing collection of sea shells. He plans to display in the upcoming museum at Betul dedicated to the fishing community and Goa’s rich marine biodiversity. On International Museum Day Victor will make known details of the museum which is scheduled to open on November 2, 2018 near Betul fort.
This taxonomically classified, scientific collection encompasses over 1500 species of seashells and land and tree snails encompassing more than 55 families collected from around the world. The seashells vary in size, from miniatures of 1 cm to those over 50 cms. Many of these species are now rare or endangered. The shells will be displayed according to their family, species and origin from across the world.
Goa Chitra’s collection includes some of interesting and rare seashells such as the Bull Mouth-Helmet shell (Cassis Rufa), Hoi Bai (Cypraeidae) and several Conus shells from Australia (Cones). There are shells that can kill a human with their poisonous spike. The collection also has unusual corals and fossils as well as complex corals and shell fossils. The fossil collection includes thousands of years old fossilised Ammonites, the sea snail Babylonia, Mussels, Oysters, shells of Spondylus and Strombus, Conchs, Cowries, Astraea, Turbo, Murex and Scallop-Cockle species.
The collection has specimens from the Pacific Ocean, Melanesian and Polynesian islands, Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and the Andaman Sea. It has shells and corals from the waters of Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia; Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore; and Western Indian Ocean countries like India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Oman and Egypt. A portion of the collection belongs to South American waters and the coastal waters of USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru as well as the Caribbean waters.
The museum aims at sharing the shell collector’s passion for sea treasures and is a way to raise public awareness of beach and lagoon conservation, both in Goa and worldwide. Intensive fishing, excessive harvesting and other marine activities are destroying the natural habitats of thousands of marine molluscs that produce these gorgeous shells and now there are fewer shells on our beaches and in our seas.
“Giant Clams, Bull Mouth and species like Cassis rufa, Lambis, and a dozen other species fall in the Schedule I and IV of the Wildlife Protection Act because they have been overexploited by commercial trawlers and dredgers. Corals too are being destroyed by humans because of fish bombing and global warming,” says Victor. The shells provide a comprehensive record of the biodiversity of important groups of animals, especially the molluscs which create these complex protective homes.
Victor says that the concentration of carbon dioxide is increasing from increased car emissions, factories, forest burning, etc. The oceans are absorbing a quarter of this gas, but this is now leading to a lower pH of seawater and greater acidity. Thus pumping of large volumes of carbon dioxide has caused a fundamental change in chemistry of the oceans, under which organisms are now producing weaker and damaged shells. “In fact as time progresses we will see less of the kinds of shells that Goa Chitra now holds,” he says.
Victor adds: “Most shell collectors in Goa are random collectors. Most shells are used for decorative purpose, while huge quantities were used to make slaked lime. Identifying shells, corals and fossils is a special field, I had to take help from serious shell collectors and refer catalogues to curate my collection.”
Goa Chitra was initiated with a vision of reviving age old traditions through the museum display and outreach programmes thus allowing the younger generation to share the wisdom of the past. This will create awareness about nature, its influences, and benefits on human life. Its philosophy is grounded in the idea of community engagement, and hence, the participation of local farmers, workers, and artists have been encouraged since the inception of the museum.
Victor has not yet decided the name of his upcoming museum where guests will see traditional fishing boats, nets, traps, measures and other fishing equipments. Victor ends the conversation highlighting that fishing is a relevant community in Goa. “I want the fishing community to take pride in their professional heritage. I want to involve the community while curating the collection,” say Victor who plans to set up more community-based museums across Goa in the near future.
The collection will be open for preview on prior appointment. Call 9850466165