63 Endangered Penguins Killed By Bees In South Africa

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Algoa Bay, off the South African city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province, is home to just under half the global population of African penguins
Algoa Bay, off the South African city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province, is home to just under half the global population of African penguins AFP / MARCO LONGARI

Dozens of endangered penguins were found dead in South Africa, a conservation organization said. Investigation suggests they were killed by a swarm of honey bees.

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) said Sunday that 63 African penguins were found dead on a beach just outside Cape Town, AFP reported.

In a Facebook post, SANParks-Table Mountain National Park noted that the penguins were discovered dead inside the Boulders African penguin colony in Simonstown on Friday morning, suggesting that they died "sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday evening."

The remains of the birds were then sent to SANCCOB to determine a possible cause of death, during which experts found "no external physical injuries" but determined that all of the birds actually had multiple bee stings.

Furthermore, some dead bees were also found at the area where the penguins had died, the report said.

"Therefore preliminary investigations suggest that the penguins died because of being stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees," the organization noted, adding that another dead penguin was spotted with multiple bee stings at Fish Hoek beach.

Both the penguins and the honey bees are a part of the national park's ecosystem, AFP noted.

"Losing over 60 healthy and most likely breeding, adult African penguins is quite a blow for the Boulders colony, and the species that is already in trouble," SANCCOB said in a Facebook post.

"This is a very rare occurence (sic). We do not expect it to happen often, its a fluke," SANCCOB founder and clinical veterinarian, David Roberts, told AFP. "The penguins... must not die just like that as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species."

African penguins are rather small penguins that grow to just about 26.5 to 27.5 inches tall and weigh from 4.4 to 11 pounds. They also have the trademark black, white, and grey feathers but with "unique" black spots on their chest and pink glands above their eyes.

These fast swimmers live in the waters of the African Coast and are believed to be the first penguins discovered by humans.

Unfortunately, the population of African penguins has significantly dwindled, with their numbers falling by a whopping 60% in the past 28 years alone. Some of the threats they are facing include over-fishing that leads to food shortages, habitat loss, environmental fluctuations, oil spills and egg collection.

Under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, African penguins are listed as "endangered" as they are facing a "very rapid population decline."




Photo: AFP / MARCO LONGARI

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