Otoma: A major natural conservation in Yemen [Archives:2006/972/Last Page]

August 14 2006

By:Ismael Al-Ghaberi
One of Yemen's most diverse regions lies only a few hours south of Sana'a. Otoma natural conservation is approximately 50 kilometers west of Dhamar, situated within the western parts of Dhamar governorate's central mountainous area.

In 1999, Otoma district was confirmed as Yemen's main natural conservation due to the area's diverse environmental systems and rich natural resources. Its diversity mainly is due to altitudes ranging between 920 and 2,700 meters above sea level, which creates distinct climates. The weather is cold in winter, moderate in spring and at the beginning of summer and generally warm in summer, especially in the valley areas. Average annual rainfall is quite high, at up to 800 millimeters in spring and summer.

The five sub-districts of Samah, Himyar, Sahal, Bani Bahar and Razeh form an approximately 460 square kilometer area, linking volcanic mountain ranges and rocky hills, interrupted by several deep valleys rich in waterfalls.

With all of its natural resources and biodiversity, the area has remained intact over the ages, despite the fact that population activities such as agriculture and grazing have in some way or another developed and expanded as a result of available water resources and climatic diversity.

According to a 2001 UNDP report, Otoma district has its own specific environmental features. The preliminary study confirmed 70 types of mammals and one-third of the large animals found in Yemen. At least 10 mammals have been discovered in Otoma conservation alone.

Likewise, is the case with the area's birds, as seen in a survey conducted by the Bird Protection International Organization. There are 48 birds recorded to be living in Yemen and 10 types inhabit Otoma.

Flora also is exhibited within this diversity, with 800 plant types – 16 are in danger and six are threatened with disappearing on a global level. Major crops harvested in summer are durra (sorghum) and Indian corn, besides the spread of planting grasses, fruits and vegetables.

Otoma conservation is famous for year-round breathtaking views of its evergreen lands, consisting of grazing fields, forests and woodlands, in which various trees, medicinal plants and rarely-found fragrant plants grow.

Such vegetative diversification creates biological importance for Otoma and its diverse wildlife contributes as well, with area sightings of hyenas, foxes, wolves and spotted Arab tigers, as well as smaller rabbits, hedgehogs and reptiles. The area's domestic animal life also is very rich, as residents breed cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens and other animals.

There is an importance for Yemen to protect Otoma and exert all efforts to safeguard its diverse biological life and protect its plants, animals and natural attractions.