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Saving  Socotra

flickr | Valerian Guillot | Edited by FrontierCivil war has devastated Yemen for over five years. It has always been a place associated with poverty and conflict, with travelling to the country being banned by many countries including the UK. Its negative reputation shrouds whatever else the territory has to offer and one of those things is the island of Socotra. Socotra is an otherworldly paradise; it is fifth in harbouring more endemic life forms than anywhere else in the world. It’s alien like landscape makes it a wonder to the eye, with the striking Dragon’s Blood trees, light blue lagoons and petite Socotra Sunbirds flitting around. It is also an essential breeding ground for migrating birds.

flickr | Rod Waddington


For such an arid area of the world, Socotra is a miracle in its varying landscape, rich with fauna, mountains, desert and water, unlike its neighbours in the Middle East. Being so small and relatively isolated, it has been able to conserve its biodiversity since the last century, with little to no extinctions reported. It is only now that civil war on mainland Yemen and Somalia has resulted in environmental damage affecting the island which sits close to both countries.

flickr | HopeHill


Currently, around 50 species are now on the ICUN red list as the human population grows poorer and relied more on its limited natural resources. A main issue is over fishing and in the collection of marine organisms in general. There is no management system in place regarding the livelihood of fishermen. Additionally, poor road construction has meant quick deterioration of roads resulting in damage to the land and dangerous outcomes such as landslides. An unsurprising danger is of course, the collection of endemic species to sell and to create energy in a desperate struggle to create an income for the 7th poorest place in the world. However, there is hope both for the land and for the people.

flickr | Gerry & BonniIn an attempt to halt further destruction, governmental and non-governmental organisations are working of creating more robust infrastructure to boost the economic prospects of islanders’ which in turn should reduce reliance on vital resources that support the irreplaceable biodiversity of Socotra. The island is working towards having an independent authority that is responsible for the Archipelago’s management and protection. More and more links between Socotra and other countries such as the UK are being built in an effort to create focused management of the island’s unique environment.

flickr | Gerry & BonniIn 2014, a local family established a nursery with the Czech Republic project for endemic trees conservation. 2014 also saw the decision to ban all coastal investor projects and prohibit all constructions must be at least 150m away from the coastline. Work still needs to be done, of course. Organisations such as UNESCO are working on highlighting the importance of educational programmes for locals and investors on the management of the island to protect this jewel amongst the sand.

By Hanna-Johara Dokal - Online Journalism Intern

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