Yemen's Socotra Island, the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean"
Since journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by supposed Saudi operatives last year, the world has begun to pay close attention to atrocities on the Arabian peninsula. Particular notice has been given to the civil war Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen. But before the war implanted Yemen among the broader public’s psyche, parts of the country have been known to naturalists for decades for its biodiversity. The Yemeni island of Socotra, specifically, is home to wildlife and fauna that haven’t been found anywhere else in the world. Some species have even been regarded for their scientific value since antiquity. Effects of the war in mainland Yemen largely didn’t reach the island until recently. The government in Sana’a can’t maintain the island’s protected status amid the war, and locals have grown increasingly dependent on Emirati developers and military contractors for keeping its humble tourism economy afloat. Some fear that Emirati interests want to build resorts on the island’s virgin beaches, which could spell environmental catastrophe. Joining us to discuss is Kay van Damme, a Belgian biologist and honorary chair of Friends of Soqotra. He’s been visiting the island regularly since 1999.