The Battle for Montecristo

The island of Montecristo off Elba is only 11 square kilometers large and is the most rigorously protected nature reserve in Europe. It is thus becoming a type of "Noah's Ark" for threatened species in the Mediterranean region.

The "Count of Montecristo" is legendary: the story about the revenge of a man who was convicted of a crime he did not commit has been made into over 50 movies and TV shows over the years. Little of this myth is true, least of all its setting. But the actual story of the island is as exciting as the fiction of Alexandre Dumas.
The cone of rock measuring only 11 square kilometers off Elba is the most rigorously protected nature reserve in Europe. Only 1,000 people may access the island each year. And yet animals and plants that have been introduced from elsewhere threaten this unique ecosystem. It is in fact impossible to return a place to its original state after it has been settled by humankind. And yet the Tuscan island of Montecristo has the potential to be just such a "time capsule". It is remote and was never inhabited long-term.
But reversing human interventions is complex and is only accomplished when animal and plant 'immigrants' are also successfully combated – first and foremost the non-native brown rat, which destroys practically all seabird chicks, endemic snakes, frogs, insects and rare plants. The biologist, Francesca Gianni has fought for Montecristo for many years. In the interim, it has become the largest rat-free island in the world. But her fight has not yet ended, because Montecristo could become a "Noah's Ark" for species that would otherwise have no further chance of survival in the Mediterranean region: a unique ecosystem can become a reality here.