Bee stings believed to have caused death of 63 African penguins in Western Cape town

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A colony of African penguins.
A colony of African penguins.
Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The penguins are believed to have died between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
  • Preliminary investigations suggest they were stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees.
  • The birds were taken to Sanccob for post-mortems.

An investigation was launched after 63 African penguins were found dead inside the Boulders African penguin colony in Simonstown, Western Cape, on Friday morning. 

In a statement, the South African National Parks (SANParks) said the penguins were believed to have died suddenly between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

Preliminary investigations suggest the penguins were stung to death by a swarm of Cape honey bees.

"The dead birds were transported to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) for post-mortems, and biological samples were sent for disease and toxicology testing. No external physical injuries were observed on any of the birds.

READ | Why birds in the Eastern Cape have been dropping dead from the sky

"The post-mortems revealed that all the penguins had multiple bee stings, and many dead bees were found at the site where the birds had died," said SANParks. 

The incident is being investigated jointly by officials, expert advisors and veterinarians from SANParks, penguin experts from Sanccob and the City of Cape Town. 

"We are grateful to all our conservation partners, especially Sanccob and the City of Cape Town, for assisting us in investigating this unusual event. No more dead African penguins were found on site today, and we will continue to monitor," said Alison Kock, a SANParks marine biologist. 

Meanwhile, a dead penguin was found on Fish Hoek beach on Friday, which also had multiple bee stings.  

"Samples are still being tested for other toxicity possibilities, and diseases are still being tested to rule out any other potential cause," said SANParks.

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