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Socotra(səkō`trə, sō–), island, 1,383 sq mi (3,582 sq km), S Yemen, at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden. With three much smaller islands to the west it forms the Socotra Archipelago governorate. Socotra's mountainous interior rises to c.5,000 ft (1,520 m). Its unusual plants and animals, many of them unique to the island, make Socotra one of the most biologically diverse locations in the world. The inhabitants speak Socotri, a South Semitic language. Most farm, fish, or herd; exports include fish, ghee, aloes, and frankincense.
Known to the ancient Greeks, Socotra shared the political fortunes of S Arabia, though it remained predominantly Christian until the 17th cent. The Portuguese briefly occupied the island in the early 1500s, and it was occupied by the East India Company in 1834. In 1886 it became part of Britain's Aden protectorate and was used as a refueling station. In 1967, Socotra was joined to the newly formed nation of South Yemen, which merged with northern Yemen in 1990. The island was the site of a Soviet base in the 1970s and 80s.
(also Sokotra, Soqotra), a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, the largest of which is Socotra. The islands, located east of Cape Guardafui in Africa, belong to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. They cover an area of 3,600 sq km and are composed chiefly of crystalline rocks. The maximum elevation is 1,503 m, on the island of Socotra. The climate is tropical and dry. The average temperature is 21°C in January and 28°C in June. Annual precipitation is between 250 and 300 mm. The islands have semidesert vegetation, with groves of xerophytic trees in the east and in the mountainous regions. The population engages in the cultivation of date palms, the raising of sheep and goats, and fishing.