Wildlife of Yemen

Yemen’s main attraction is often considered to be its birdlife, which is particularly abundant during the spring and autumn migrations, bringing in  thousands of raptors across the Bab-al-Mandeb straits between Yemen and the African continent.

Leopard photographed in Yemen for the first time (wildlife extra) A female leopard has been captured on a remote camera in January 2011in Yemen. Excitingly, in February, a male leopard was photographed in the same area near the border with Oman, providing the hope that they might be breeding.

Birds of Yemen

The Republic of Yemen is very rich in bird life. If one includes the island of Socotra over 360 species have been recorded. Among these are seventeen species (thirteen on the mainland and four on Socotra) which are found nowhere else in the world except in some cases neighbouring areas of south west Arabia. For these so-called ‘endemics’ Yemen has a special responsibility and because of them, ranks as one of the most important countries in the Middle East for bird conservation.

Wildlife conservation initiatives in Yemen

My own personal involvement has been chiefly with the latter, and what I want to try and do tonight, very briefly, is to update you on what has been, and is, happening in the sphere of wildlife protection and environmental conservation in Yemen. Not least among the special and precious elements of Yemen’s culture, is its rich and varied wildlife. This is no accident: Yemen is at the hub of a vast wheel, the spokes of which radiate out to Europe and Western Asia in the north, and to Africa and India in the west, south and east. Huge migrant flyways, from breeding grounds in Europe and Russia to wintering grounds in the Middle East, Africa and India, bring millions of birds across and through Yemen every spring and autumn. Additionally, Yemen holds a vast range of plants and animals unique to the region, despite the ravages of recent population increases and the illegal trade in mammals to other Arab countries.

Botany, incense and myrrh

 On his return from a first expedition tothe Yemen in 1977, Théodore Monod put together an herbariumcontaining about a thousand plants, which is housed in the ParisMuseum of Natural History. But with only 2,500 species identified sofar, the study of Yemen’s flora is still a long way from completion.The Yemen is a vast country with a very diverse topography that ishome to a wide variety of plant species. And as yet no botanist hasever ventured into the desert regions of the high plateaux;where the temperature can top 60° C tostudy the flora

Naturalist in Socotra

Dioscorida is very large but desert andmarshy, having rivers in it and crocodiles and many snakes and greatlizards, of which the flesh is eaten and the fat melted and used instead of olive oil.” This is part of the oldest documentedinformation on a mysterious piece of land opposite the great EasternHorn of Africa, called “Dioscorida.” This account appears in the”Periplus of the Erythraean Sea”, a shipping manual written in thefirst century A.D. by an unknown Greek sailor. Nowadays, about 2000years later, Socotra still belongs to the comparatively unexploredparts of the world. Apart from some 19th century travel accounts,the island has been a relatively well-kept secret, virtually isolatedfrom the rest of the world and effectively closed for foreignvisitors by military considerations and extreme natural conditions.

Southwestern Arabian montane woodlands  


This ecoregion is situated in the southwestern Arabian highlands above 2,000 m and includes part of the Asir Mountains of Saudi Arabia and most of the western highlands of Yemen. In the west, a steep escarpment drops to the Tihamah plain on the Red Sea coast. To the east is a high plateau, with the mountains then sloping more gently to the inner desert regions and sands of the Rub’al-Khali (Empty Quarter).

See also