Legend has it the otherworldly dragon’s blood tree first grew on the spot where two brothers, Darsa and Samha, fought to the death. In Arabic, it is known as dam al akhawain – “the blood of the two brothers”.
The unique tree, with its crimson resin and dense crown of prehistoric leaves, is a beloved symbol of the Arabian Sea island of Socotra and its parent country of Yemen.
The island is very isolated, home to a high number of endemic species; up to a third of its plant life is endemic. It has been described as “the most alien-looking place on Earth.”
There are 750 species of plants on Socotra, 270 of which are endemic to the island, and are found nowhere else on Earth. There are ten species of rare and endangered plants on the island such as the unique blood tree, the olibanum tree, the desert rose, and the myrrh tree.
Socotra is also home to many rare animals and birds. Native marine life is characterized as a hybrid of species from the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Western Pacific. The island boasts 352 species of coral reef, 730 species of coastal fish, and 300 species of crabs, lobsters, and shrimp.
Additionally, 90 percent of the reptiles and 59 percent of the wild snail species in the archipelago are not found anywhere else in the world. The archipelago also hosts a significant number of birds (291 species, 44 of them breed on the islands, 58 migrate regularly). Ten species can be found only on Socotra, such as the Socotra Bunting, the Socotra Sunbird, the Socotra Starling, the Socotra golden-winged Grosbeak, the Socotra Scops owl, the Socotra Sparrow, and the Socotra Warbler.
Although it is not known precisely when humans settled on Socotra, the archeological remains on the island “date back to the Stone Age,” according to Vitaly Naumkin, head of a Russian archaeological expedition to Socotra. In an interview with al-Siyasah newspaper in December, 2008, he remarked that the remains were about a million years old. “They indicate the beginning of the existence of a primitive man,” he said.
Unfortunately, this rare site of human and cultural heritage has been devastated by natural disasters in recent years, including the Chapala and Megh cyclones in 2015 and the Mekunu cyclone in 2018. The whole province of Socotra was declared a “disaster area” after the cyclone. ravaged the island in May 2018.
More significantly, Socotra now appears to be threatened by the civil war currently raging in Yemen. Despite the fact that Socotra is geographically distant from the combat in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, the UAE recently came under criticism for trying to “occupy” the island