South Africa’s endangered penguins found dead with bee stings to eyes

The death of 63 endangered South African penguins have been blamed on bees. — AFP pic
The death of 63 endangered South African penguins have been blamed on bees. — AFP pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — The deaths of 63 endangered penguins in South Africa have been blamed on a swarm of honey bees that stung the birds’ eyes.

The penguins were found last week in Simon’s Town, about 40km from Cape Town city, Daily Mail reported.

A statement by South African National Parks (SANParks) said the African penguins were found within the Boulders African penguin colony and suspected to have died from multiple bee stings that happened sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

“After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes,” David Roberts, clinical veterinarian with Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) said.

“This is a very rare occurrence. We do not expect it to happen often, it’s a fluke. There were also dead bees on the scene.”

The bodies of the penguins were transported to SANCCOB for further analysis, with the experts taking biological samples that were sent for disease and toxicology testing.

SANCCOB’s initial post-mortem analysis found the penguins had no external physical injuries, but multiple bee stings were found in all the carcasses.

Investigators also found many dead bees at the side where the birds were found dead, officials said. 

“Preliminary investigations suggest that the penguins died because of being stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees,” SANParks officials said in a statement.

The statement, however, did not explain why the bees may have stung the penguins.

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