Tiny penguins in tiny jumpers: How a knitting revolution is saving penguin lives after oil spills

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Fittingly called “Little Penguins,” the tiniest penguins in the world measure up at a mere 13 inches tall and average around 2 pounds, calling the coasts of Australia and New Zealand their home.

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Fact: These penguins are the cutest animals ever. (CC)

The worldwide population is estimated to be just one million Little Penguins. The biggest colony of Little Penguins lives on Phillip Island, just outside of Melbourne, Australia, which hosts 32,000 little birds that waddle from the ocean to the sand dunes every night in what is called the “Penguin Parade.” The colony only crosses the beach to the safety of the sand dunes at night, using the darkness to help them avoid attack from predators. The spectacle has become one of the main tourist attractions in Australia and draws thousands of spectators a year to watch the penguins make their nightly waddle up the beach.


Look at them all waddle up there! (Source)

While you’d think that these tiny birds couldn’t get cuter, the Penguin Foundation has come up with a brilliant solution to help aid penguin recovery after an oil spill.

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Penguin models showcasing their new digs. (Source: Penguin Foundation)

When penguins affected by an oil spill are admitted to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Phillip Island, they are usually covered in slick oil. To protect penguins and keep them from pruning their feathers, the Penguin Foundation called upon knitters worldwide to pick up their needles and create penguin jumpers, which prevent the penguins from poisoning themselves with toxins during their recovery and keep them cozy in fashionable wool.

The Foundation has been overwhelmed with donations after posting the pattern online – knitters in Germany alone have thus far donated over 40,000 jumpers.

Worldwide support of this effort has allowed the Penguin Foundation to collect enough jumpers to clothe affected penguins for years to come, selling the most creative jumpers to raise money for rehabilitation costs.

I discovered this movement over Spring Break and have begun to design and knit a jumper of my own – a lovely hot pink number with turquoise fish stripes. I think it’ll bring out the penguin’s eyes.

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Pink is the new black on Phillip Island. (Jill Goatcher)

If you are so inclined to start knitting a jumper to contribute to the cause, the pattern can be found here. They only take a few hours to make for experienced knitters, and for someone who has always wanted to knit, they are quite easy. Plus, there’s no greater motivation to finish a project when you know it’s going to help one of the world’s cutest animals.

Jill Goatcher is a senior politics major and marine biology minor. She can be reached at goatcher@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyJGoatcher.