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Mystery as dozens of beheaded penguins wash up on beach leaving scientists stumped

Around 20 penguins have been washed up on beaches in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula just this month alone and scientists are looking into the bodies to find out what is causing all of the sad deaths

Scientists have been left stumped as to why dozens of headless penguins are washing up on beaches in Australia
Scientists have been left stumped as to why dozens of headless penguins are washing up on beaches in Australia

Scientists have been left stumped as to why dozens of headless penguins are washing up on beaches in Australia.

They have now launched a full investigation into who, or what, is behind the gruesome deaths.

It is estimated that around 20 have been washed ashore this month alone on beaches surrounding South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

Remarkably the total in April alone is more than the total number of penguin deaths in the area in the whole of 2021.

Now in South Australia, Stephen Hedges is collecting all of the dead animals.

This is so they can be studied by scientists as they look into finding out how or why the heads are being removed.

Stephen is a volunteer at The Flinders University and has said that he and others are finding both the penguin bodies and the severed heads.

However direct human intervention has already been ruled out as a cause as the deaths are happening at sea.

A full investigation has been launched
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Image:

Getty Images)

Despite that Mr Hedges has said that fishing boat propellers could be the cause of death. That is based on the large number of the boats that are in the area.

He has said told the Advisor : “We normally have one or two per month washing up on the beaches but already (in April) I have collected between 15 and 20, and sometimes three in one day.”

Mr Hedges has also said that the evidence so far is pointing towards a “fairly clean chop” on the penguin’s heads.

He also said: “But looking at an animal and thinking ‘that is a very clean chop’ is not the same as scientists determining a cause.”

In an average year any number between 10 and 20 of the flightless birds wash up dead onshore in the area. However with that amount of numbers washing up in April alone scientists are getting increasingly concerned.

A little blue penguin arrives at it’s nest at Caroline Bay
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Image:

NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A recent tuna fishing competition in the nearby area could have attracted the penguins to the boat, suspects Mr Hedges.

However, that may not be the only reason tourism could also be a factor in the deaths of the penguins. Around Easter the number of tourists in the area increases.

Mr Hedges has said that a lot of the tourists were walking along the beaches with their dogs. As a result that may well be related to what happened.

The theories don’t end there as another one is that the decapitations could be caused by waves, currents and climatic conditions.

However with the amount of penguins involved in the ongoing issue is making this theory unlikely.

Mr Hedges has warned that it would take two or three weeks before the scientists are able to find a definitive cause.

Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia
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Image:

De Agostini via Getty Images)

Even though the headless bodies are being found down under is a unique event. However sadly the species have fallen to mass death in a strange turn of events.

Back in September of 2021 a swarm of bees sadly managed to kill 63 endangered African penguins on a South African beach.

Penguins are in fact a protected bird and they were sadly found dead in Simon’s Town, near Cape Town. Once they were found they were taken for post-mortems.

At the time David Roberts who is a clinical veterinarian said: “After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes.”

The area that it happened in is a national park and Cape honeybees are part of the ecosystem. South African National Parks said at the time that there were no external physical injuries found on any of the birds.

However at the time the post-mortems showed all the penguins had multiple bee stings.

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