A group of South African veterinarians were the first to go to the site of this unusual case. 63 African penguins lay lifeless on the beach, and hundreds of bee corpses were found next to them.
Boulder’s Beach witnessed the event. This beach is the natural habitat of this species of penguins, which also receives tens of thousands of tourists annually. The specimens were not sick or seriously injured. The only strange thing was the multiple bee stings on their bodies.
These penguins were part of a colony established in Simon’s Town, Cape Town, located in the extreme southwest of South Africa. The species Spheniscus demersus or African Penguin, is endemic to the continent and is the only penguin that inhabits it.
During the 20th century, the population of this bird decreased by almost 90%. It is currently on the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which has it in danger of extinction.
The experts say
Veterinarians are reminded that the closest hypothesis to knowing what happened is that a hive in the area was disturbed (presumably by human activity). This provoked the bees to start their defence. During their flight, they found the penguins while they were walking on the beach.
David Roberts, the veterinarian with the Southern African Shorebird Conservation Foundation, commented that this is unusual since the behaviour of the bee species that caused the deaths is not aggressive. Both species have inhabited the site for centuries with no problem.
The veterinarians did autopsies and more tests to rule out diseases or poisoning. However, the only thing found were the dozens of bee stings on the penguins’ bodies, especially in their eyes, which are the most sensitive area of the body of these birds.
Although the toxicity of each bee sting is low, since they inject between 50 and 100 micrograms of venom, the multiple sting holes were enough to cause the death of any animal of its size. The penguin with the most bites had 27 in total. A spokesman told the BBC.