A mysterious and alarming scene has greeted beachgoers of eastern Uruguay for the last ten days, as about 2,000 penguins have washed up dead for no discernible reason.
According to reporting from The Science Times, the birds, which are Magellanic penguins, have all tested negative for the avian flu, ruling out a common cause of mass death in bird species.
According to the Times, Magellanic penguins can be found across the Pacific and the Atlantic, with concentrations in the Falkland Islands, Chile, and Argentina. The Times also stated that the penguins migrate north when temperatures drop to search for warmer food and water.
The birds grow to about 24 inches and weigh between six and 14 pounds.
Ninety percent of the dead birds are young and have empty stomachs and no fat reserves, according to comments to the Times from Head of the Department of Fauna at Uruguay’s Environment Ministry, Carmen Leizagoyen.
Leizagoyen added that such large numbers of the birds dying is unexpected and abnormal and said the deaths occurred in the water before the birds washed up on the shore. She also cited another “die-off” incident that occurred in 2022 in Brazil, in which the cause of deaths of the penguins were also unable to be determined.
According to reporting from NDTV, some environmental advocates, like SOS Marine Wildlife Rescue’s Richard Tesore, speculate that the deaths could be caused by overfishing and various illegal fishing practices.
Tesore also told NDTV that a subtropical cyclone hit southeastern Brazil in mid-July, which may have already caused weaker animals to die off. Tesore also said that other animals, such as seagulls or sea turtles, were found dead on the beach.
The tragic incident is just one in a string of bizarre marine events over the summer, with the most notable being a string of incidents involving killer whales that have bumped into and, in some cases, sank sailboats off the Iberian coast.
Uruguay’s Ministry of Environment did not respond immediately to Insider’s request for comment, sent outside of working hours on the weekend.
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