- Yemen possesses a coastal line extending from the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea that stretches along more than 2500km. this littoral extension has made Yemen possess a large number of islands scattered along the two Red and Arabian Seas. The number of Yemeni islands in theses regions amounts to 182 islands the most important of which is the Island of Socotra. Other Yemeni islands are scattered in three main sectors, namely, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
The island of Socotra is the largest of the Yemeni islands, you can see as a pearl in the Arabian Sea rich with most peculiar and scarcest species of plants and birds known in the world. Presently Socotra is one of the reservations for rare plants, if not the most important ones.
Socotra Island has an enchanting nature, and a climate and environment that composed a life homogenous with its inhabitants. Ancient people gave the island many names such as the ‘island of frankincense’, ‘the island of gum and the island of blood the two brothers’. Among the names that bear a social characteristic is that of the ‘island abode of bliss’ which is traced to the Sanskrit dvipa-sakhadara’ and the ‘island of the pearl’.
Historical references indicate that since the beginning of the first millennium AD, the island of Socotra represented one of the significant centers for production of goods used in religions worshipping rites of the ancient world. Those goods were called the sacred goods. It was a prevailing belief that the land producing sacred goods then was a land blessed by the gods. Therefore, such lands were much mentioned in books written by ancient geographic travelers.
Due to tensely winds blowing on the island, they impose a kind f isolation on the island and it is deprived of communication with the outside world for almost six months every year, the island of Socotra has preserved over the past centuries purity of its original environment. The island’s environment contains many species of land and marine life, especially very unique birds and plant in the world. The World Center for Watching Environment Affairs has classified the island of Socotra as one of the ten islands of the world rich with biodiversity because of its containing of 200 species of rare plants, out of 600 rare botanic species in the world.
The Yemeni Society for Protection of Wildlife says the island of Socotra and Archipelago of its isles contain more than 950 botanic species, among which 300 inhabit in the island and there are no similar kinds of them in any place in the world. Therefore the island forms the most important areas of biodiversity in Yemen. Also, many of the plants that grow in the island of Socotra in popular medicine for the cure of many diseases. Among such plants are the Socotra aloe, the gum, the myrrh-tree and blood of the two brothers, in addition to commonly used medical plants such as aljaraz and euphorbia.
Orchards of palm trees on banks of valleys full streams of water around the year form a green blanket in a blend with blueness of the se water surrounding the island, both of them compose a gorgeous artistic tableau. The birds of Socotra form one of the biodiversity features of the environment of Socotra. Some of them fly very close to visitors of the island; they fly over trees and the water around the island and its valleys where the visitor listens to their beautiful and various songs.
In most recent study conducted at 22 bird habitats in Socotra archipelago there were registered 179 kinds of birds, 41 of which are resident and reproducing in the archipelago, six kinds of these birds are inhabitants, besides the two kinds of birds, namely the buzzard and owl which are also considered as inhabitant kinds, though it is not decided yet as for their categorization. The number of each kind of these birds is estimated at 500 pairs. The study also spotted 88 types of regularly migratory birds and 50 unsettled kinds.
A study prepared by the international bird protection society in cooperation with the environment protection council disclosed that Socotra archipelago houses 13 species of resident birds that do not exist in any other place in the world, among them a species of birds called “Um al-Saeed”, the mother of the happy, an it looks like a hawk.
On his part Dr Sagheer, director general of the Yemeni society for protection of wildlife points out that the Socotran sparrow occupied the first place with regard to number intensity that has been counted in the archipelago and it amounted to more than 200mthousand sparrows, the Socotran eagle came in the second place amounting to more than 30 thousand birds, then the singing Socotran of about 14 thousand then the Socotran warbler and the bunting that are considered as of the rarest species of birds in the archipelago of Socotra whose number numbers are 30000 and 10000 successively. The seagulls migrating to the island from farthest parts of the north, especially the yellow-legged, are considered the commonest in the islands. The number of transient Lepidoptera migrating from the remotest north in the winter season. Also there is in the Socotra archipelago abundance of wheatear bird, which is a species of wild birds migrating in winter. The beauty of the scene is completed with the presence of a bird species called the “cleaner”. This bird comes close to the visitor while sitting in a place in the island to have his food. This species of birds rushes to pick the food leftovers very quickly.
Among the animal existing in the island and the inhabitants benefit from their existence is a kind of cats called “Al-Ziyyad Cat”, which is wild savage cat that does not eat flesh but rather dates and chicken meat. Of its investment benefits is that it is an important source of Ziyyad substance which has nice fragrance similar to musk the women usually use it in addition to perfumes of frankincense. After extraction of the ziyyad fragrance from the Socotran cat it would be released and so it runs away hiding among trees and date palm groves and after a while it is caught once again to get the ziyyad from it again.
Because the island of Socotra is considered as a natural history museum due to what it possesses of rare biodiversity, it receives great attention from the government in order to benefit from its diversified stock, its natural characteristics and economic advantages that constitute unique constituents for tourism. In addition there is the world interest in the island by the UNESCO and international organizations interested in environment. This attention is concentrated mainly on preserving the island as a natural pearl as it and the group of islands linked to it have been declared a natural reservation for serving humanity.
The international attention and interest is clearly seen in the “Project of protecting the biodiversity of the island and its archipelago” ageist deterioration that might take place in the natural environment of the island because of the increase in the island’s economic and population growth. That protection is achieved through the implementation of many projects meant for protection of species and environmentally sensitive sites in a way guaranteeing sustainability of the environment in a balanced form to preserve the areas of natural reservations.
The project of preserving and safeguarding the biodiversity in the island is based on a series of programs and projects carried out by the government to preserve this unique diversity. This has made the island possesses a large amount of natural reservations amounting to 59, among them are 27 coastal reservations and twelve land reservations, most important of which is the reservation of Sakant that includes a proportion of 70-80% of the biodiversity the island possesses.