It’s not easy being an African Penguin.
A number of factors have contributed to this drastic decline, such as poor breeding habitat, extreme climatic events, oiling, disease, poor food availability, and human disturbance.
Over the weekend, news broke that 63 African penguins had been found dead at the Boulders colony in Simon’s Town.
In a highly unusual development, researchers found that the penguins had been stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees.
The penguins were found on Friday morning, according to the statement issued by SANParks:
The dead birds were transported to 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. 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.
Therefore preliminary investigations suggest that the penguins died because of being stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees.
At the time of the statement, samples were still being tested for other toxicity possibilities and diseases to rule out any other potential cause.
David Roberts, a clinical veterinarian with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), gave further details on Sunday.
ABC News reports:
“After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes,” Roberts said.
“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.”
“The penguins … must not die just like that as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species,” said Roberts.
SANCCOB said rangers will now keep a close eye on nests in the area, which may have eggs and chicks that need assistance.
The organisation added that “one partner often can’t supply sufficient food or leave the chicks alone. There might be a need to rescue and hand-rear some of them so we’ll keep a watchful eye, as always.”
Here’s the SANParks statement in full:
For more on how to contribute towards saving this iconic and vital species, head here.
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