Socotra celebrates World Bird of Prey Day

Guest blog by Ahmed Saeed Suleiman
Socotra Buzzard Buteo socotraensis. © Lars Petersson

On Yemen’s island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean we have held events to celebrate our Egyptian Vultures and other birds of prey for several years. This year we organised another event for these special birds.

Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus © Richard Porter

Under the patronage of the Governor of the Socotra Archipelago, Eng. Rafat Ali Ibrahim Al -Thaqali, the Socotra Islands Foundation for the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Socotra Wildlife Association we organized a Bird of Prey Day on 3 September.  The event attracted many Socotrans and included a lecture for students at the Canadian Institute in Hadiboh, Socotra’s capital, where I was proud to introduced the audience to the importance of Socotra’s raptors and especially the globally Endangered Egyptian Vulture and our endemic Socotra Buzzard, which was only named just over ten years ago.

We discussed the threats they are facing, both on Socotra and globally and there was a long session on how to tackle those threats.

The more were are able to inform the Socotran people about their special birds, the more they want to help protect them.

Birds are considered one of the most important attractions for tourism in the Socotra archipelago as we have twelve endemic species. A site visit was made to Khor Sirhan, an Important Bird Area (IBA) with the aim of introducing the students to the range of birds that are found in the creek, especially at times of migration. Here we were able to discuss the threats to habitat posed by the rapid urban expansion of Hadiboh town and also the resulting depletion of water which is such a precious resource on our island. As well as waste, toxins, and agricultural and animal inputs, which pose a great threat to our birds of prey – and other birds too.

The students made sincere thanks and appreciation for these efforts in
organizing these activities and it was a pleasure to provide them with a range of information on birds of prey and the importance of Socotra globally because of its biodiversity.

We also thank OSME who have helped to sponsor special wildlife events in the past, especially for the annual International Vulture Awareness Day. We hope they will do so again in the future.

Socotran students on a site visit to Khor Sirhan

Ahmed Saeed Suleiman, seen in the centre, is an expert in birds, and the  entire fauna and flora in the Socotra Archipelago. For over two decades he has headed major environmental initiatives through many projects and has supported the Integrated Program for the Conservation and Development of Socotra Archipelago. He participated in the preparation of Socotra’s Zoning Plan, an important tool for environmental protection on island and which has been confirmed by Presidential Decree. He has organised pilot community-based campaigns and awareness activities for the eradicating of invasive species including the House Crow, Prosopis juliflora and Opuntia stricta (Prickly Pear). Ahmed has also helped organize Socotra’s environment awareness events, including the Vulture Awareness Day and Wetlands Day.

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