January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day to bring into focus the plight of this flightless bird and their dwindling habitat. The picture you see here is not a prank. Australia’s Phillip Island Nature Park has been dressing Little Penguins (the species name) in hand-knitted wool jumpers to help them survive the oil leaks and spills that happen every day in the Earth’s oceans.
Given that a patch of oil the size of a thumbnail is enough to kill the little bird, in 1998 a volunteer came up with the idea of attiring the Little Penguins in sweaters. During the last major oil disaster near the area in 2001, the sweaters helped save 96% of the 453 contaminated penguins.
Over the years, the researchers have fine-tuned the knitting pattern to make sure that the wool does not damage the penguin’s feathers and that their flippers or beaks do not get entangled. The sweaters are knitted with 100% wool, which has a unique ability to act as a breathable insulator.