Conservation of Socotra’s biodiversity: a dream to be achieved

A guest blog by Abdulkarim Nasher, Ali Yahya Mahroos, Ahmed Saeed Suleiman & Haifa S. Baziyad

Socotra Sunbird Chalcomitra balfouri

Socotra, Yemen’s special island, is famous throughout the world for its biodiversity. It has eleven endemic breeding birds, the highest global concentration of the Endangered Egyptian Vulture, over 300 endemic plants, 60 endemic butterflies and moths as well as 29 endemic reptiles.

This unique biological diversity qualified Socotra to be listed a Natural World Heritage Site and is the pride and concern of its people, as well as many naturalists all over the world. We have been very lucky to be part of the “UNEP – GEF ‘Socotra Project’ team and we work together with the local community in promoting conservation. The project’s work plan includes activities that cover many aspects, all aimed at “supporting conservation and sustainable development” of the Socotra Archipelago. Here are some examples:

Al-Zahra School drawing competition:

To get school girls involved in environment conservation issues, they were asked to join a drawing competition and were given two weeks to submit their art work. In April the project team visited the school made presentations on the need of protecting Socotra biodiversity, and the importance of vegetables and fruits in human diet. The event was concluded by rewarding all participants in the drawing competition.

Rewarding participants of the biodiversity drawing competition

No plastic bag day at Qalansiyah:

While being banned by several nations, plastic bags are still widely used all over Socotra. In an initial step to launch a “Plastic-free Socotra” campaign, a “No plastic bag day” awareness campaign was carried out at Saif Bin Thi-Yazan Primary School, Qalansiyah. The activity was organized in collaboration with the General Directorate of Qalansiyah district Education Department. In the presence of Deputy Governor for Island Affairs and some members of Qalansiyah local authority, the activity was implemented in April where presentations on risks of plastic were delivered. This was followed by a field exercise on plastic bag collection carried out by the school children, with the participation of teachers, and members of local authority.

Collecting plastic bags in Qalansiyah.

Fighting invasive species:

Several introduced plant and animal species have been reported on Socotra, some of which are harmful, and known to be invasive. An eradication programme for the latter is planned with international guidance from the Center for Agricultural Biosciences International.  AS a first step in July eradication of the invasive, alien prickly pear Opuntia stricta was carried out at the villages of Suq, Dareh Dilfadhen, and Disqasiq. Community members of these villages, including women, men and children participated in this campaign with unexpected enthusiasm. The event was the first of its kind, not only on Socotra, but all over the country. It was breaking news, and the talk of local media for several days.

Removing Opuntia stricta with the participation of village community
International Vulture Awareness Day:

For the first time ever, Socotra will join the world in celebrating the International Vulture Awareness Day. But we will also be celebrating all Socotra’a birds of prey, especially the rare, endemic Socotra Buzzard. To mobilize for this event, the project team, at all levels, worked together to make this event come true with a generous grant from the Ornithological Society of the Middle East. A special lesson highlighting the importance of vultures and birds of prey has been prepared and will be given to schools throughout the island. The Governor of Socotra, Mr. Ramzi Mahroos, has expressed full support to celebrate the event under his auspices, and many others who were in full support. The programme includes full day activities on the 1st and 2nd of September in Hadibo and Qalansiyah.  They will include awareness presentations on birds of prey, drawing competitions, field visits to see vultures and other birds of prey and the clearing of plastic bags from coastal lagoons where vultures come to dri

Banner for celebrating International Vulture Awareness Day on Socotra.
Project team meeting Socotra Governor to plan celebrating IVAD.

Socotra is so lucky to have such a high population of Egyptian Vultures and to have our own, endemic Buzzard. We also have breeding Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels and Ospreys. We are really lucky.

We will be posting photos of our special vulture and bird of prey day later in September. Please wish us good fortune. Inshallah!


For help and guidance in our work we would like to thank our international friends, Uwe Zajonz, the coordinator of the UNEP-GEF project, Dr Kay Van Damme, Richard Porter and Dr Arne Witt.

In addition to the above mentioned gentlemen, we greatly appreciate help and support provided by Mr. Salem Hawash, EPA General Director and  Mr. Mohammed Saad, General Director of Qalansiyah District, Mr. Mamoun Sinan, and General Director of Socotra Language School. Last, but not least, we are very grateful to our local and international team colleagues,

Ahmed Saeed
Ali Yahya
Haifa Baziyad
Abdulkarim Nasher

Abdulkarim Nasher, Ali Yahya Mahroos, Ahmed Saeed Suleiman and Haifa S. Baziyad are members of the UNEP – GEF Socotra Project team.  Socotra Yemen

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