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Dozens of South African penguins dead after freak bee attack

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 9/24/2021 Jessica Schladebeck

Scientists and animal experts were investigating on Friday after the bodies of dozens of penguins, many of them with stingers in and around their eyes, were discovered in South Africa.

A total of 63 endangered African penguins were found dead on Boulders Beach near Cape Town, which attracts up to 60,000 visitors a year. They believe the protected birds were killed between Sept. 16 and 17 in what researchers have dubbed an unprecedented attack launched by honey bees.

While it’s not completely uncommon for bees to sting penguins, researchers said they have never seen anything this to scale.

“Usually the penguins and bees co-exist,” Dr. Alison Kock, a marine biologist with South Africa’s national parks agency, told BBC News this week.

“The bees don’t sting unless provoked — we are working on the assumption that a nest or hive in the area was disturbed and caused a mass of bees to flee the nest, swarm and became aggressive,” she continued.


Video: 63 Penguins Killed by Swarm of Bees at Colony in South Africa (Inside Edition)

63 Penguins Killed by Swarm of Bees at Colony in South Africa
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“Unfortunately the bees encountered a group of penguins on their flight path.”

Post-mortems performed on the birds revealed the bees targeted both their eyes and flippers, most likely because that’s where their feathers are not, according to Dr. Katta Ludynia, from the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

a flock of birds sitting on a rock: A colony of penguins. © MARCO LONGARI A colony of penguins.

A colony of penguins. (MARCO LONGARI/)

There are currently only 10,300 breeding pairs of African penguins left in South Africa. In the last 20 years alone some 40,000 breeding pairs have been lost, she told NBC News.

“The main threats to African penguins are the lack of food, the competition with industrial fisheries over limited resources, increasing shipping traffic, oil spills and pollution, climate change, extreme weather events, diseases, predation and many others, not bees,” Ludynia said.

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