Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Penguin Sweaters and Other Creative Ways to Help Birds

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Penguin Sweaters and Other Creative Ways to Help Birds

Article excerpt

Protecting Earth's natural wonders can be difficult, complex, and occasionally - adorable. But reminders like World Penguin Day (April 25) can help people connect to the planet's feathered and winged creatures.

Campaigns to knit sweaters for penguins in danger from oil spills represent a creative, individualized approach to helping humans coexist smoothly with the natural world.

Rangers in Australia began using specially knitted sweaters - called "jumpers" across the pond - to protect penguins during a series of oil spills in the late 1990s, according to Penguin Foundation. The "little penguins" or "fairy penguins" at the Phillip Island Nature Parks were trying to clean the oil off their feathers by preening, but the oil made the birds sick.

Attention knitters! The Penguin Foundation needs knitters to make sweaters for penguins! SOSO1HHDkT-- Claire D (@hearthandmadeuk) April 1, 2016

Animals rescue workers began outfitting the penguins temporarily with sweaters, carefully adjusting the knitting pattern until they found one that slid easily on and off without damaging the feathers. Volunteers the world over began knitting sweaters in various colors and designs, including then-108-year-old Alfred "Alfie" Date, the oldest Australian and a knitter of 80 years.

"The girls who used to work for me, they'll tell you I'm a sucker. I can't say no," Mr. Date told NineMSN. "It's a good way of getting along in life. You make friends all the time but you don't make a fool of yourself either."

The knitted sweaters stopped the penguins from swallowing the oil before they could be properly washed, and it kept them warm when their oil-matted feathers could not. As a result, 96 percent of oil- encrusted penguins returned to the wild in full health. Rescue workers tried to expand the sweater idea to pelicans during the Gulf spill in 2010, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

"Prior to the [sweaters], we used squares of cotton with a hole to stop them from preening," Margaret Healy, a former rehabilitation officer, told the Monitor. "This wasn't very practical as the birds would still manage to preen and take the oil into their system. …

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