A swarm of Cape honeybees stung 64 South African penguins to death before they were discovered on Boulders Beach in South Africa on Sept. 17.
Marine biologist Dr. Alison Kock, with South Africa’s National Parks Agency (SANParks), said that the penguins and the bees usually coexist in the beach’s ecosystem, the BBC reported Tuesday. Kock added that the bees do not usually sting unless provoked or if they feel that their hive is being threatened. She and other SANParks members assumed that a hive was disturbed, triggering the bees to swarm and sting the penguins, according to the BBC. (RELATED: Bald Eagle Set To Be Removed From Vermont’s Endangered Species List, Experts Say)
Dozens of rare penguins have been killed by a swarm of bees in South Africa, in what conservation experts have described as a freak accident. https://t.co/0eL9WQqci6
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 21, 2021
The bodies of the penguins were taken to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SAFCCOB) for autopsy, according to Live Science. Bee stings were only found around the eyes and flippers because the rest of their bodies were covered in feathers, SAFCCOB member Katta Ludynia told the BBC.
Multiple dead bees were also founded on the beach, according to the BBC report.
South African penguins are considered an endangered species due to a rapid decline in the population. Food shortages of food due to fishing and disturbances in growth rates of different species contribute to that decline, the outlet reported.