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The United Nations for Education, Science and Culture Organization UNESCO announced enlisting Socotra Archipelago to its list of World Heritage natural sites during the meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Canada last Tuesday.
The World Heritage Committee, meeting for its 32nd session, finished inscribing new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on 8 July with the addition of 19 cultural sites and eight natural sites to the List, Socotra Archipelago was among the new enlisted natural sites.
In a statement published in its website the UNESCO described the Socotra Archipelago, that extends to 250 km and includes four islands and two small rocky isles, as appears to be an extension of the Horn of Africa.
It pointed out that Socotra is an exceptional site where there is great diversity in its plants and proportion of the existing species, adding that 37% of species of plants out of 825 kinds and 90% of reptile species and 95% of land snails present in it are not found at any other areas of the world. Concerning sparrow the UNESCO said the site houses important species a t the level of the world (192 kinds, 44 of them reproduced in the island 85 species of them migrate to it regularly) and among them some species threatened by extinction.
Socotrra marine life is distinguished by a great diversity with the existence of 253 species and coral reefs, 730 species of coastal fish and 300 species of lobsters.
Yemen welcomed the UNESCO decision for enlisting Socotra Archipelago on the world Heritage list. In its meeting last Tuesday the Yemeni cabinet valued the decision taken by the world heritage committee, affirming its moral and developmental value and that the decision is considered a medal granted to the Yemen republic. It said the decision would enhance the efforts for protecting and preserving the nature of the island and its development in a sustainable way.
The Socotra Archipelago is located off the Horn of Africa, at the crossroads between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is recognised as a regional centre of biodiversity, with spectacular endemic species such as the Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari). Socotra has a rich cultural heritage, including the unique Soqotri language. Isolated from the rest of the world, traditional land and sea uses remained little changed until the 1970s.
The challenge of the Biosphere Reserve is to ensure better living conditions for its 30,000 inhabitants based on the sustainable use of natural resources. A part of the population stayed nomadic and semi nomadic due to the transhumance grazing system. The rest of the population are fishermen, farmers or depend on tourism. The biosphere reserve designation stems from an UNDP-GEF project conducted by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) of the Republic of Yemen, with the support of the Government of Netherlands. A Conservation Zoning Plan has been established in close consultation with the local communities. Core areas are relatively small, protected as nature sanctuaries, and make up 9,500 ha on land and 1,540 ha in the marine zone. The buffer zones consist of national parks, covering 274,800 ha on land, and 151,400 ha on sea. The transition area is the most intensively used zone of the islands, including towns and settlements, roads and commercial developments, covering some 94,470 ha plus a 12 nautical mile marine resource use area corresponding to over 1.6 million ha. The EPA has the overall responsibility for coordination and management.
Natural properties inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the 32nd session:
Joggins Fossil Cliffs (Canada)
Mount Sanqingshan National Park (China)
Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France)
Saryarka - Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan)
Monarch Butterfly biosphere Reserve (Mexico)
Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)
Socotra Archipelago (Yemen)
UNESCO’s World Heritage List now numbers a total of 878 sites, 679 cultural and 174 natural sites and 25 mixed in 145 countries.