These little penguins live on the southern coasts of Australia and often get caught in the more and more prevalent garbage and oil spillages in the ocean. When their feathers become coated with noxious substances, they lose their effectiveness at waterproofing the birds which quickly become chilled. If the penguins are lucky enough to emerge from the water and to be found by conservationists, they are rescued, washed with a mild detergent and quickly fitted with sweaters (or jumpers, as they call them there). Since cleaning is not 100% effective at removing the tarry petroleum product, the sweaters serve to prevent the penguins from grooming their feathers and ingesting the poison at the same time as helping them to stay warm.
When the call first went out a few years ago for knitted sweaters, a pattern was quickly devised and people around the world got their needles out. Since the sweaters are quite small (these penguins are tiny ones, remember), people were able to knit many in a short time. Multiplied by the number of people around the world eager to take action to "save" little penguins, the number of sweaters sent in completely inundated the agencies. Most of the sweaters are not being used.
It has also been realized that the penguins are further traumatized by the wearing of foreign objects, so the use of the sweaters has pretty much been discontinued. A better option for keeping them warm is to put them in a warm room. And a better option for helping penguins is to donate money to the wildlife rehabilitation organizations. The sweaters, unused by real penguins, will be worn by toy penguins.
Some of the clever knitters have been inspired to make the sweaters as cute as possible which makes for a very appealing picture. Don't you love the Penguin Books sweater?
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