Dozens of endangered penguins in South Africa were killed last week by a swarm of bees.
More than 60 of the protected birds were found at Boulders Beach, a tourist spot near Cape Town with multiple bee stings on Friday. The Coastal Bird Conservation Foundation of Southern Africa said in a statement that it suspected a Cape honey bee nest was to blame.
Many dead bees were also found at the scene.
At first, investigators believed a predator had caused the death, but autopsies revealed bee stings around the birds’ eyes, Katta Ludynia, research director at the foundation, told NBC.
It was the first known attack of this kind.
Alison Kock, a marine biologist with the South Africa National Parks Agency, told the BBC that penguins and bees generally coexist.
“Bees only sting if provoked – we assume that a nest or beehive in the area has been disturbed and caused a mass of bees to flee from the nest, swarming and become aggressive She said. “Unfortunately, the bees encountered a group of penguins on their flight path.”
African penguins live on the coast and islands of South Africa and Namibia. Threatened by fishing, hunting, oil and gas drilling, mining and climate change, populations of small seabirds are declining rapidly.
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