South Africa

Honey bees blamed for deaths of 65 penguins at Boulders Beach

Through Nomalanga Tshuma Post publication time7 months ago

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Cape Town – The discovery of 65 dead African penguins, allegedly attacked by a swarm of Cape honey bees inside the Boulders African penguin colony in Simon’s Town, has been a blow to environmentalists.

Despite a preliminary investigation into the incident which showed the penguins died after being stung by bees, a team of specialist vets and advisers from the South African National Parks (SANParks), the city and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) will continue to investigate the deaths to rule out other causes.

SANParks spokeswoman Lauren Clayton said: “On Friday morning September 17, 63 African penguins were found dead in the African Boulders Penguin Colony in Simon’s Town. Another dead penguin was also found on Fish Hoek beach on Saturday.

“We believe the deaths occurred suddenly between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. SANParks officials, city expert advisers and Sanccob vets investigated the tragic incident.

“A preliminary investigation suggests that the penguins died after being stung by a swarm of Cape honey bees, and no external physical injury was observed on any of the birds. The team will continue to investigate to rule out any other potential causes, ”Clayton said.

Sanccob veterinarian David Roberts said that while it is unusual for penguins to mix with Cape honey bees, it is not unusual for bees to be on the defensive if they feel threatened.

Roberts said there may have been a disturbance in Simon’s Town or the area’s garden that caused the bees to react the way they did and attack the penguins.

He said: “There has never been an incident like this, so it is not a usual occurrence. While Cape honey bees are native to the region because of the fynbos, the penguins and bees do not interact at all. Something must have happened to trigger such a response from the bees and lead to this tragedy.

“We believe birds died from toxins derived from bee stings because birds are not like other mammals and are more susceptible to the poison. Some birds had more than 20 bites on the body, which caused massive organ failure.

“The penguins were probably all stung at the same time as most of them were found in the same area, but some were found a bit later in different areas.”

Roberts said following the incident, penguin rangers were monitoring the penguins and also carried out a thorough check of the remaining penguin colony to ensure there were no injured birds.

“It was such a tragedy. African penguins are in danger of extinction, which is why it is such a tragedy. Losing 63 healthy adult penguins like this is terrible because every penguin counts at this point. It was a big blow to the colony, ”said Roberts.

SANParks marine biologist Dr Alison Kock said the organization was grateful to its conservation partners, who came on board to respond to the situation in a timely manner.

She said: “We are grateful to all of our conservation partners, especially Sanccob and the City of Cape Town, for helping us investigate this unusual event. No more dead African penguins were found there today, and we will continue to monitor the situation. “

Honey bees blamed for deaths of 65 penguins at Boulders Beach

SourceHoney bees blamed for deaths of 65 penguins at Boulders Beach

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