12:11 PM PDT, September 22, 2021
The penguins were found dead on the world-famous Boulders Beach, just 45 minutes outside Cape Town center, with many with bee stings around their eyes, which experts have said was unprecedented, NBC News reported.
“Usually the penguins and bees co-exist,” Dr Alison Kock, a marine biologist with South Africa’s national parks agency (SANParks), told BBC News. “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. Unfortunately the bees encountered a group of penguins on their flight path.”
The incident occurred Friday and SANParks broke the news Saturday on their Facebook page.
Initially, experts believed a predator or disease was to blame for the deaths, however, toxicology reports indicated that it was the bee stings. The penguins were struck around their eyes and on their flippers, which is where the skin in the thinnest and there are no feathers.
Due to food shortages and climate change, the species of African penguins, which are generally found in South Africa and Namibia, is declining.
“The African penguin population is rapidly declining, and it is very sad to see the deaths of so many healthy, most likely breeding adults,” Dr. David Roberts, the foundation’s clinical veterinarian told NBC News.