image source, AFPimage captionConservationists say the African penguin is at high risk of extinction
Sixty-three endangered African penguins have been killed by a swarm of bees in a rare occurrence near Cape Town, bird conservationists in South Africa say.
The protected birds, from a colony in Simonstown, were found on a beach with multiple bee-stings but no other physical injuries.
Post-mortems found that the birds had been stung around the eyes.
"This is a very rare occurrence. We do not expect it to happen often, it's a fluke," vet David Roberts told AFP.
The specialist, who works for the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob), said dead bees were also found at the scene.
"Samples are still being tested for other toxicity possibilities and diseases to rule out any other potential cause," said South Africa's national parks agency (SANParks) at the weekend.
African penguins are distinctive for their small size, and live on the coast and islands of South Africa and Namibia – though some have been spotted as far north as Gabon.
Their populations are rapidly declining, the International Union for Conservation of Nature says, in main part because of commercial fishing and what it calls "environmental fluctuation".
Cape honeybees are also part of the local ecosystem, which features several conservation areas.
A dead penguin was also found on Friday on nearby Fish Hoek which had also suffered multiple bee-stings, according to SANParks.
The national body said in a statement that it would continue to monitor the situation.
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