The more people experience, connect with, and share their love of nature, the more support there will be for its conservation and the more they will be connected to natural landmarks among which natural world heritage sites emerge as the most celebrated. Socotra Archipelago is definitely one of these sites.
Socotra Archipelago stands out as a site where different IUCN bodies can contribute in assessing, sustaining and reclaiming outstanding universal values of natural world heritage.
IUCN is an advisory body for the UNESCO that provides the World Heritage Committee with technical evaluations of natural heritage properties and, through its worldwide network of specialists, reports on the state of conservation of listed properties. Among these properties is the Socotra Archipelago, Yemen.
The Archipelago is located in the northwest Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Aden, is 250 km long and comprises four islands and two rocky islets. The site is of universal importance because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna: 37% of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species do not occur anywhere else in the world. The site also supports globally significant populations of land and sea birds (192 bird species, 44 of which breed on the islands while 85 are regular migrants), including a number of threatened species. The marine life of Socotra is also very diverse, with 253 species of reef-building corals, 730 species of coastal fish and 300 species of crab, lobster and shrimp.1
In 2008 Socotra Archipelago was inscribed as a natural world heritage site in accordance with the Selection Criterion X by which the site must “contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.2”
However, the past few years have witnessed rapid deterioration of the exceptional values of Socotra due to pressures by political instability, infrastructure development and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. Therefore, the most recent IUCN World Heritage Outlook (2017) at Socotra was of a “significant concern”3.
With the management regime, awareness raising and capacity building identified as factors that can contribute in relieving this status, Firas Abd-Alhadi, Regional Vice-Chair for West Asia in IUCN CEC, participated in the 17th International Socotra Conference that was organized by the Friends of Socotra and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Manama, Bahrain during 25-28 October 2018. Firas presented a poster titled “#NatureForAll: A Movement to Inspire Love of Nature” in which he illustrated the eight strategies of this movement. Through the poster and discussions Firas elaborated how the people’s detachment from nature has alienated them from a due appreciation of the services healthy ecosystems provide to communities and economies and thus undermined their conservational practices causing environmental deterioration. One manifestation of this deterioration in Socotra is the declining traditional rural livelihood systems and overexploitation of natural resources. Firas called for reestablishing connections between Socotra’s inhabitants, especially the youth, and its nature offering the #NatureForAll model.
Participants, especially the Socotra inhabitants, were very responsive to the idea of and strategies of reconnecting with nature especially that it is relevant to their traditional ways of life.
Firas T. Abd-Alhadi, Regional Vice-Chair for West Asia in IUCN CEC