Postmortems showed the African penguins had multiple stings around their eyes
African penguins walk on rocks on Boulders beach in Simonstown, South Africa. Dozens of the penguins were killed by a swarm of bees. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA
A swarm of bees has killed 63 endangered African penguins on a beach outside Cape Town, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds said.
The protected birds were found dead in Simon’s Town, a small town near Cape Town home to a colony of penguins, and taken for post-mortems.
“After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes,” said the foundation’s David Roberts, a clinical veterinarian, on Sunday.
“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,” he told AFP by telephone.
The area is a national park and the Cape honeybees are part of the ecosystem.
“The penguins … must not die just like that as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species,” said Roberts.
South African National Parks said samples had also been sent for disease and toxicology testing.
“There were no external physical injuries found on any of the birds,” a parks statement said.
The postmortems showed all the penguins had multiple bee stings.
African penguins, which inhabit the coast and islands of southern Africa, are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, meaning they face a high risk of extinction.