Penguin sweaters, also known as penguin jumpers, are sweaters which are knitted for penguins that have been caught in oil slicks. When an oil spill affects penguins, they are dressed in knitted sweaters to stop them preening their feathers and to keep them warm, since the spilled oil destroys their natural oils. This also prevents them from poisoning themselves by ingesting the oil. The sweaters are removed and discarded as soon as the penguins can be washed.
The project originated with the Phillip Island Nature Park oil spill of January 2000 and was successfully completed, but the knitting pattern is still available online, as subsequent oil spills continue to make it necessary. The extra sweaters are kept on behalf of the Wildlife Rescue Team for future use.
After a 2011 oil spill in New Zealand, an online plea for hand-knitted penguin sweaters again resulted in their use to rehabilitate oil-soaked birds. Similar garments are being made for battery chicken rehabilitation.
As of 2014, the Australia-based Penguin Foundation is still accepting handmade sweaters but no longer uses these for penguin rehabilitation. Instead, these sweaters are used to dress toy penguins which are then sold to raise money for the foundation.
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- BBC video
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