Research & Conservation

The hottest decade to date and a fiery start down under

We’ve had an awful start to the decade as the world could only watch as Australia battled the worst ever bushfires recorded.


Record low rainfall is the primary cause for the continent-wide disaster, which saw over 5 million hectares of land up in a blaze as fires swept across the massive island. At the time of writing, two thousand homes have been destroyed, and the current human death poll is at 24.

It’s extremely saddening and worrying to also note that the animal kingdom has suffered a huge hit with over half a billion animals perishing. Shocking images of burnt kangaroos and koala bears took circled social media channels, and if ever the world needed another wake-up call about global warming, this was it. The only year which saw more land burned was in 1974, however, the difference today is that the fires are so widespread, engulfing what looks like the whole content. The damage to life and property is unprecedented and this has forced even our humble organisation to act.


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Our €1000 donation

The Malta National Aquarium donated 1000 euros to the WWF Bushfire Emergency Fund. Our message too is simple: This needs to change NOW, and helping donate to various fundraises can make a difference as every little helps.

Studies have shown that climate change is a direct contributor to making the bush fire season longer and now the fire seasons of California and Australia overlap, meaning international resources get stretched further.


The fire: In Numbers

  • 1 billion animals perished (at the time of writing)
  • 30,000 koalas, which are already endangered, died
  • 30% of the koala’s habitat has been destroyed
  • 18.6 million hectares burned this season
  • 31 human deaths
  • 2600 homes destroyed
  • A$1.6 billion in insurance claims
Koala being rescued
The Koala Bear is one of Australia’s national symbols.


Last decade was the hottest to date

The 2010s were the hottest to date, while 2019 is in the top three for the warmest year on record. The startling fact here is that all of the ten warmest years on record have come since 2005 – eight of the top 10 have come in the recently ended hot decade.
We’ve seen wind fires sweeping through the Arctic and Australia and with this start to 2020, the figures look damning. When the Paris Agreement vowed to stick to a 2 degrees C rise, it looked almost do-able, however, now we are looking at a 3 degrees C increase by 2050 which would be a catastrophe. 22 million people worldwide were at risk by weather extremes in 2019 alone and this figure is set to multiply.

What’s more problematic is that the global average temperature is now showing that the world is 1 full degree C warmer than it was since the start of the industrial revolution, which is alarming.


dry soil
Dried soil, never a good sign on a warming planet.


The lost species of 2019

Sadly, each year we always lose a number of species through extinction, and last year we went from the very tiny Hawaiian tree snail early on, to one of the world’s largest freshwater fish.

Almost two dozen species were declared extinct last year, with some species being declared extinct after decades of invisibility. The extinctions are of course dealing with species we know exist, while there might be others out there that we will now never know even graced our Earth.

We lost the Lake Oku Puddle Frog which was last seen in Cameroon in 2010 and we also bid farewell to the lost shark (Carcharhinus obsolerus), which is a species that has not been seen since the 1930s. Overfishing is the likely cause of this extinction.

In China last year the last of the Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) died during an artificial insemination procedure, which made the speciest effectively extinct.

Together with the above extinctions, the IUCN declared several species as “extinct in the wild”, as they only exist in captivity. Here is a brief list

  •  Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixxi)
  • Ameca shiner (Notropis amecae)
  • Banded allotoca (Allocta goslinei)
  • Marbled swordtail (Xiphophorus meyeri)
  • Charo Palma pupfish (Cyprinodon veronicae)
  • Kunimasu (Oncorhynchus kawamurae)
  • Monterrey platyfish (Xiphophorus couchianus)

With these species now only around in conservation centres, we can only pause to think about just how delicate the natural world is and that every single action by us humans can wipe out entire species.

As we type this, Australia grapples with the aftermath of one of its biggest-ever natural disasters, and we Maltese also continue to develop our islands at an unprecedented rate. We must always keep mother nature at the fire front of our minds, as for our younger readers and generation the list of extinct species will grow too large.

Think of a world without the cuddly koala bear, or the cheeky kangaroo? It’s impossible to imagine, but it is a scary reality we might face if we continue with this rash approach to the way we treat our Earth.