Socotra Island Desert

About the Area

Socotra is the largest island in an archipelago that is fringed by coral reefs. It is only about 3,600 square km (1,400 square miles), stretching from the moister Hagghier Mountains that tower above the island's interior, to the arid broad plains along the coast.
The island is an important site of local endemism for reptiles, plants, and birds and is noted for its botanical uniqueness. It has approximately 215 endemic species of plants, out of which, 85 are nearly extinct.

Local Species
Socotra houses many unusual plants, including the Socotran pomegranate (Punica protopunica) and the Cucumber tree (Dendrosicyos) - the only representative of Cucurbitaceae known to grow as a tree. For centuries the island has been noted for its aloes as well as "dragon's blood" - a brilliant red resin extracted from the endemic Dragon tree (Dracaena cinnabari).

The island is also home to nine endemic plant genera, including Ballochia, Trichocalyx, Duvaliandra, Socotranthus, Haya, Lachnocapsa, Dendrosicyos, Placoda, and Nirarathamnos. Selected animal species include the Socotra leaf-toed gecko (Hemidactylus forbesii), Guichard's rock gecko (Pristurus guichardi), Blanford's rock gecko (P. insignis), and Socotra rock gecko (P. sokotranus).

The island is also home to six endemic bird species, including Island cisticola (Cisticola haesitatus) and Socotra bunting (Emberiza socotrana).

Threats
A long history of settlement has given people ample time to degrade much of the habitat. Overgrazing by goats, fuelwood cutting, and potential new development projects threaten the native biota.

Resources

Size:
3,800 sq. km (1,500 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Island off the northeast coast of Africa (the Horn of Africa)

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Quiz Time!

Why is the dragon tree so called?

Answer:
This tree has been known around the world at least as long as people have believed in dragons. When the dragon's blood tree is cut down or one of its branches breaks off, it "bleeds" a dark red resin. Early Greek, Roman, and Arab civilisations believed that this liquid had medical benefits, and in the 1700s Italians used it to stain wood used in making violins. Today, dragon's blood is still sometimes used in special photographic processes.

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