Many folks may be shocked to hear it, but there are more penguins in Africa than in Alaska.
You’re more likely to find Santa Clause and magic reindeer in the North Pole than you are any penguins too.
That’s because penguins are exclusively native to the Southern Hemisphere (except for the Galapagos penguin, which lives at the equator and does have a range that just barely extends into the Northern Hemisphere sometimes.)
There are 17 species of penguins in the world. Most of them live in the Antarctic or the sub-Antarctic islands, but a few of them do live in a few other unexpected places in addition to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Other unexpected places that the flightless, fish-eating birds live include Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa.
So, believe it or not, that is correct. There are actually penguins in Africa.
Historically African penguins were found only on island chains off the coast of places like Angola and Mozambique. However, dating back to the 1980s, two breeding colonies of penguins have become established in South Africa thanks to the fact that human development had pushed predators away from the coast and opened up room for the aquatic birds to become established.
The species is also known as the “jackass penguin.” That name is derived from the sound the birds make, which resembles vocalizations made by donkeys.
Today there are over 2,000 penguins in South Africa, but after a recent turn of wild events, there are now 63 fewer of them, and the reason why is terrifying.
A swarm of bees killed them.
Making the story even more heartbreaking is that the species is already classified as endangered, so losing so many birds at once is a huge blow to the sustainability of the population.
According to The Guardian, a group of 63 dead penguins was found dead on the beach just outside of Cape Town in an area known as Simon’s Town. Concerned about what may have caused the deaths, wildlife officials examined the penguins closely, and David Roberts, a clinical veterinarian with the Southern Africa Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, determined they were all killed by a swarm of angry bees. Cape honey bees are common in the area, but an attack like this is considered to be entirely out of the ordinary.
“After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes.
This is a very rare occurrence. We do not expect it to happen often; it’s a fluke. There were also dead bees on the scene.
The penguins … must not die just like that as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species.”
The birds were sent away for additional testing. The birds were examined for other injuries, and toxicology reports ruled out poisoning.
Considering that all of the birds displayed signs of multiple bee stings, it was determined that the only possible cause of death was a swarm of bees.
It’s a disappointing development in the natural trajectory of a species already facing an uphill battle for long-term survival in a rapidly changing world.