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South Africa: Preliminary investigation shows penguins killed by bee swarm

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Schalk van Zuydam/AP

South Africa

Following the sudden death of 63 African penguins inside the Boulders beach colony near Simonstown, South Africa, veterinarians have discovered the cause to be a freak bee attack.

The deaths occurred suddenly sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

Officials, expert advisors and veterinarians from South African National Parks (SANParks), the City of Cape Town and 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.

Preliminary investigations suggest that the penguins died because of being stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees.

On Monday, SANCCOB research manager Katta Ludyia said that the attack was in all likliness a "complete freak accident."

"We suspect that it is just basically bad luck for the penguins. We don't expect this to happen more often or that the bees start being a threat to the penguins," she added.

A dead penguin was also found on Fish Hoek beach yesterday 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.

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