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The Galapagos of the Indian Ocean

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Far off the coast of Yemen lies isolated Socotra island, where hundreds of plants and animals have developed into species unique to the island. The best-known of these might be the Dragon Blood trees, with their densely-packed crowns and blood-red sap. Socotra, sometimes referred to as "the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean," is slowly emerging from its long isolation -- in 1999, the first airport opened, and tourism began to pick up. In an effort to counter any negative impacts, UNESCO recognized the island as a World Natural Heritage Site in 2008, promoting conservation of the unique environment and some of its endangered species. [20 photos]

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Dragon Blood trees, known locally as Dam al-Akhawain, or blood of the two brothers, on Yemen's Socotra Island, on March 27, 2008. Prized for its red medicinal sap, the Dragon Blood trees are the most striking of 900 plant species on the Socotra islands in the Arabian Sea, 380 km (238 miles) south of mainland Yemen and 80 km east of the Horn of Africa. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
Dragon Blood trees, known locally as Dam al-Akhawain, or blood of the two brothers, on Yemen's Socotra Island, on March 27, 2008. Prized for its red medicinal sap, the Dragon Blood trees are the most striking of 900 plant species on the Socotra islands in the Arabian Sea, 380 km (238 miles) south of mainland Yemen and 80 km east of the Horn of Africa. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
Socotra, viewed from the International Space Station, on April 27, 2012. At left, Yemen's coast, at bottom, Somalia's Cape Guardafui, commonly known as the Horn of Africa, at center-right is Socotra Island. (NASA) #
The approach to Ditwa lagoon and beach near the port of Qalensiya, the second biggest town on Yemen's Socotra Island, on February 1, 2008. (Reuters/Alistair Lyon) #
Girls stand during the morning assembly at their school on Socotra Island, on November 19, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi) #
Dragon Blood trees and Socotran "desert roses" (Adenium obesum, subspecies socotranum), on a hillside in the protected area of Homhill on Socotra Island, on February 1, 2008. (Reuters/Alistair Lyon) #
A village on Socotra. Original here. (CC BY SA Rod Waddington) #
Yemeni and foreign tourists gather to admire an example of the Dragon Blood tree on the Yemeni Island of Socotra, on March 27, 2008. (Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images) #
A car, parked in the huge mouth of Dogub cave on Socotra Island, on November 19, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi) #
A Socotran Starling. Original here. (CC BY SA Rod Waddington) #
A frankincense tree. Original here. (CC BY SA Rod Waddington) #
Sightseeing off Socotra Island. Original here. (CC BY Hope Hill) #
Closeup shot of Di Hamri coral beach. Original here. (CC BY Flickr users Gerry & Bonni) #
An abandoned Russian tank on the northwest shore. Original here. (CC BY Flickr users Gerry & Bonni) #
Children play among fishing boats on the beach at Qalensiya, the second biggest town on Socotra Island, on February 1, 2008. (Reuters/ Alistair Lyon) #
Bottle Trees. Original here. (CC BY SA Rod Waddington) #
Hadibu city, Socotra Island, on November 21, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi) #
Dragon Blood trees, known locally as Dam al-Akhawain, or blood of the two brothers, on Socotra Island, on March 27, 2008. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah) #
A view of the Yemeni Island of Socotra, on March 27, 2008. (Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images) #
Socotran "desert roses", whose thick trunks are adapted to store water, on a hillside in Wadi Diksam on Socotra Island, on November 19, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi) #
An Egyptian Vulture flies on Socotra Island, on March 27, 2008. The population of the Egyptian Vultures is over 1,000 in Socotra, making it the most concentrated population of the endangered bird in the world. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah) #

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