A swarm of bees killed more than 60 penguins on a beach near Cape Town, South Africa, officials said Saturday.
South Africa National Parks said in a Facebook post that 63 African penguins were found dead at Boulders Beach, noting the deaths “occurred suddenly some time between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.”
The penguins were transported to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to conduct post mortems, which found that all of the penguins had “multiple bee stings.” Officials also found numerous dead bees at the site of the incident.
Officials will continue to monitor the site.
“The African penguin population is rapidly declining, and it is very sad to see the deaths of so many healthy, most likely breeding adults,” said David Roberts, SANCCOB’s clinical veterinarian, according to NBC News.
“This unusual event is part of what can happen in a normal balanced ecosystem and if the penguins were not in such trouble already, it wouldn’t be such a tragedy,” Roberts added.
The foundation told NBC there are about 10,300 breeding pairs of African penguins left in South Africa.
Katta Ludynia, research manager at SANCCOB, said her team originally believed the penguins were killed by a predator before noticing the bee stings.
“The main threats to African penguins are the lack of food, the competition with industrial fisheries over limited resources, increasing shipping traffic, oil spills and pollution, climate change, extreme weather events, diseases, predation and many others, not bees,” Ludynia said, according to NBC.
Originally published by The Hill