Yemen’s Socotra, one of the world’s most isolated continental fragments, was selected for the World Monuments Fund’s watch list for 2022.
Socotra, about 340 kilometres south-west of Yemen, is known for its centuries-old umbrella-shaped dragon blood trees and is known as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean because of its biodiversity.
Storms, changing temperatures and rising sea waters are putting its ecology, heritage, cultural traditions and livelihoods on the line.
The island is now part of the WMF’s biennial selection of 25 of the world’s most significant heritage and endangered sites in need of immediate attention.
Buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, and Benghazi, in Libya, are among the sites on the list.
The nomination was put forward by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in collaboration with Socotri, Yemeni and global partners.
Simon Milne, Regius Keeper of RBGE, said he was delighted that the island had been recognised by WMF, and called it “an important step in the protection of this globally significant heritage”.
“The Soqotra Archipelago is an area of outstanding biological diversity where an incredible 37 per cent of plant species can be found nowhere else on Earth,” he said.
“This astonishing biodiversity is part of a rich cultural heritage, unique to the region, where nature and the environment are inextricably linked with the culture, language and traditions of the Socotran people.”
The recognition by WMF will push to raise awareness, identify and develop programmes that will place heritage conservation at the heart of Socotri society and livelihoods, the organisation said.
It will also “conserve its distinctive heritage for local and global benefits”.
Socotra, which means “island abode of bliss” in Sanskrit, was named a World Heritage Site in 2008.
The UN’s cultural agency, Unesco, described the main island as one of the world’s “most biodiversity-rich and distinct”.
It is home to more than 50,000 people and has remained relatively untouched by Yemen’s civil war.
It lies in turquoise seas between Arabia and Africa, about 350 kilometers south of the country’s coast.
“Highlighting the rich cultural history and traditions of Socotra is an important step forward,” Dr Julian Jansen van Rensburg, Socotra Heritage Project and Research Associate at RBGE, said.
It will help “the Socotra Heritage Project foster a greater sense of awareness of a culture that has long been overlooked – allowing this unique heritage to be protected, preserved and shared with the world,” he said.
“The impacts of climate change and conflict have already had a significant effect on Socotra’s heritage and we welcome this nomination.”
The project is a partnership between Socotri heritage experts and international advisers.
Led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, it has begun to document heritage places and traditions around the island and raised awareness of threats and potential conservation action.
This list will helps conserve the chosen sites by raising awareness and funds.
World Monument Watch sites 2022 - the full list
Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, Kinchela, Australia
Mosque City of Bagerhat, Bangladesh
Cultural landscape of the Bunong People, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia
Fortified manors of Yongtai, Fujian Province, China
Sumba Island, Indonesia
Heritage buildings of Beirut, Lebanon
Hitis (water fountains) of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
Tomb of Jahangir, Lahore, Pakistan
Hurst Castle, Hampshire, UK
Lamanai, Indian church village, Belize
Monte Alegre State Park, Brazil
La Maison du Peuple, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Asante traditional buildings, Ghana
Tiretta Bazaar, Kolkata, India
Benghazi historic city centre, Libya
Koagannu mosques and cemetery, Maldives
Teotihuacan, San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico
Yanacancha-Huaquis cultural landscape, Miraflores District, Peru
Alcantara and Rocha do Conde de Obidos, Marine Stations (Almada Negreiros Murals), Lisbon, Portugal
Fabric Synagogue and Jewish heritage of Timisoara, Romania
Africatown, Mobile, Alabama, US
Garcia Pasture, Brownsville, Texas, US
Socotra Archipelago, Yemen