Nonnative animals threaten indigenous life on Socotra

Published on 29 November 2012 in Report
Amal Al-Yarisi (author)

Amal Al-Yarisi

Image 1605

Image 1605

Located in the Indian Ocean, 220 miles from Yemen's mainland, the island of Socotra Archipelago  has long been regarded as one the wealthiest landmasses in terms of biodiversity. Experts agree that a majority of animal life there is yet to be discovered and categorized, earning its title as a "natural historic museum."

Due to the island's isolation, "the animals living on Socotra are free of epidemic diseases,” according to Mahmoud Mohammed Abdulrahman, head of the Yemen Organization for Animal Protection.  However, this untouched environment was recently threatened when approximately 30 goats were brought to the island via a military plane from Sana’a Airport.  Although the entry of all foreign plants and animals are banned from the Socotra, animals like these goats can be admitted if they are used specifically for their meat and not allowed to breed.  This is only permitted on the condition the animals are tested by agricultural labs, which the goats were not.   

This is very worrisome for Abdulrahman, who says a whole host of problems could result if these animals were carrying diseases.  The island could lose its status as an international nature reserve, not to mention the potential spread of hazardous germs and viruses that could completely upset equilibrium on the island.

Although Ahmed Saeed Sulaiman, the manager of the General Authority of Environment Protection in Socotra, said they were informed of the entrance of "some animals" to the island on a military plane, it is unclear where the breakdown in procedure took place.  

There is an investigation pending.  No one could comment on the current status of the goats.

Suliaman said the General Authority of Environment Protection was established to defend the island against such incidents that could spoil the land's diversity.

Local residents also have a stake in keeping their island free of foreign invasions.  Ahmed Adeeb, who works at a nursery on Socotra, reiterated the devastating effects that unfamiliar germs brought to the island could have.  He called it a "very dangerous matter."

In 2000, Socotra was officially included on UNESCO's list  of international nature reserves. In 2008, it was categorized as an international heritage site.  

Despite the island's latest scare, Abdulrahman says they are working to preserve the island's beauty, magic and purity.