- Dozens of endangered South African penguins have been killed by a swarm of bees.
- The birds were part of a famous colony of penguins who live near Cape Town, South Africa.
- The discovery has puzzled scientists.
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Dozens of endangered African penguins were killed by a swarm of honeybees on a beach outside of Cape Town last week, according to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob).
Rangers were shocked to find 63 dead penguins close to Simon’s Town last week, home to a famous colony of about 3,000 African penguins known as Boulders Penguin Colony.
The discovery has puzzled experts, who have described it as a “very rare occurrence,” The Guardian reported.
“After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes,” the foundation’s clinical veterinarian, David Roberts, said according to The Guardian. “There were also dead bees on the scene.”
Roberts also said that the stings were so small that they could “easily have been missed” and that it took them several attempts to find them, The Times reported.
“We checked the other bodies again and found stings still embedded around the eyes in almost all of the birds. We found more than 20 stings in some individuals,” he said, according to The Times.
The birds most likely died from the toxins in the stings.
The area is a national park and the honeybees are part of the ecosystem.
Scientists are now looking into the possibility that a nearby beehive was disturbed, causing a mass of bees to swarm and become defensive.
Incidents like this are very rare, according to Sanccob. In the past 20 years, there have only been two occurrences in which penguins suffered from bee stings.
African penguins are on the red list of threatened species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The penguin population has declined by 73% in the past 30 years.