When an oil spill affects penguins they have in the past been sometimes dressed in knitted sweaters, supposedly to stop them from poisoning themselves by ingesting the oil during preening, and to keep them warm, since the spilled oil destroys their natural oils. 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 and call for volunteers to donate remained available online. Instead of the 100 or so sweaters needed, thousands were sent. The extra sweaters were stockpiled by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. 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.
After a 2011 oil spill in New Zealand, a local yarn shop put out the call for penguin jumpers, and supplied a pattern. Jumpers were received from all over the world. However, those cleaning and rehabilitating the penguins affected said they neither used nor requested the jumpers: heat lamps were used to keep cleaned penguins warm. Once they are cleaned, there is little danger of them ingesting oil when preening – one of the rationales given for penguin sweaters – and sweaters may in fact do more harm than good to the penguins.
- "Woolly Jumpers for Oiled Penguins". BBC. 16 February 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
- Hartman, Holly. "Penguin sweaters: Cozy tops give small birds a chance". Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- "Penguin jumpers mercy flight". BBC News. 2002-02-08. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Mikkelson, Barbara (11 February 2015). "For the Birds". Snopes. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
- "Penguin Foundation: Wildlife Rehabilitation". Retrieved 2014-03-07.
- Mooney, Mary. "Penguin Sweaters: separating fact from fiction". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
- Coffey, Laura T. "A good yarn: Knitters make sweaters for penguins after oil spill" (MSNBC article). Retrieved 2011-10-20.
- Dickison, Mike (24 October 2011). "The Great Penguin Sweater Fiasco". Retrieved 9 August 2015.
- Holcomb, Jay (27 October 2011). "Sweaters on oiled penguins?". International Bird Rescue. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
- BBC video
- "Found Items: Pierre the Penguin's Wetsuit". Dabbler.ca. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
- Leslie, Robert. "In from the cold: chilly chickens given a winter warmer" (BBC article with video links). Retrieved 2008-11-23.