Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The region has 5 million inhabitants.
Sicily is an often-quoted example of man-made deforestation, which has occurred since Roman times when the island was turned into an agricultural region. This gradually dried the climate, leading to a decline in rainfall and the drying of rivers. The central and southwest provinces are practically devoid of any forest. In Northern Sicily, there are three important forests; near Mount Etna, in the Nebrodi Mountains and in the Bosco della Ficuzza Natural Reserve near Palermo. The Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park, established on 4 August 1993 and covering 86,000 hectares, is the largest protected natural area of Sicily; and contains the largest forest in Sicily, the Caronia. The Hundred Horse Chestnut, in Sant'Alfio, on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna, is the largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world at 2,000 – 4,000 years old.
Sicily has a wide variety of fauna. Species include the European wildcat, red fox, least weasel, pine marten, roe deer, wild boar, crested porcupine, European hedgehog, common toad, Vipera aspis, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, Eurasian hoopoe and black-winged stilt. The Sicilian wolf was an endemic wolf subspecies that was driven to extinction in the 20th century.
The Zingaro Natural Reserve is one of the best examples of unspoiled coastal wilderness in Sicily.
Surrounding waters including the Strait of Messina are home to varieties of birds and marine life, including larger species such as greater flamingo and fin whale.