A swarm of bees killed dozens of endangered African penguins by targeting their eyes
Boulders Beach penguins. Peter Bischoff / Getty Images
Dozens of endangered South African penguins were killed by a swarm of bees.
The birds were part of a famous penguin colony that lives near Cape Town, South Africa.
The discovery has puzzled scientists.
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Last week, dozens of critically endangered African penguins were killed by a flock of honey bees on a beach outside Cape Town, according to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob).
Rangers were shocked to find 63 dead penguins last week near Simon's Town, home to a famous colony of around 3,000 African penguins known as the Boulders Penguin Colony.
The discovery has puzzled experts who have described it as a "very rare occurrence," The Guardian reported.
"After testing, 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 at the scene."
Roberts also said the stitches were so small they were "easily missed" and that it took them several tries to find, The Times reported.
“We examined the other bodies again and found stitches around the eyes of almost all 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 investigating the possibility that a nearby beehive was disrupted, 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 of penguins suffering 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 decreased by 73% over the past 30 years.
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