CAPE TOWN - An investigation has been launched into the “unusual” deaths of 63 penguins at the Boulders African penguin colony in Simon’s Town this week after they were stung by Cape Honey bees.
The penguins were found on Friday morning and initial post-mortem findings revealed that all of the birds had multiple bee stings, and many dead bees were found at the site where the penguins had died.
SanParks spokesperson Lauren Howard-Clayton said the deaths occurred suddenly between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
“Officials, expert advisers and veterinarians from South African National Parks (SANParks) and the City of Cape Town, as well as penguin experts from the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob), started investigating the possible cause of death. 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,” said Howard-Clayton. “Therefore, preliminary investigations suggest that the penguins died because of being stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees.”
A dead penguin was also found on Fish Hoek Beach on Friday, which the Sanccob vet has confirmed also had multiple bee stings.
“However, samples are still being tested for other toxicity possibilities and diseases are still being tested to rule out any other potential cause,” said Howard-Clayton.
SANParks marine biologist Dr Alison Kock said: “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, and we will continue to monitor the situation.”