Though penguins are most commonly associated with tuxedos, there’s currently an effort to dress up some of these birds in sweaters. No, it’s not just a change of wardrobe – the Penguin Foundation uses the sweaters to help rehabilitate some of the birds it rescues.
The outfits are designed specifically for penguins that have had the misfortune of being caught in an oil spill. When a penguin gets coated in oil, it will try to preen the oil away, accidentally consuming the toxic material in the process. By placing a sweater over a penguin’s body, the wildlife group is preventing it from being able to pick at its own body. Sometimes the sweaters are reused on the penguins even after the oil has been thoroughly removed — this time for warmth until the penguin’s feathers and natural oils have mended.
If this plan sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Three years ago, a different organization made a similar request for penguin sweaters, and the knitters of the world responded in kind. However, this isn’t an example of a dated news story getting revived unnecessarily — the Penguin Foundation really did put out a new call for knit pullovers this week.
Some animal activists have been critical of this tactic, however. They worry that dressing the penguins up could be more detrimental than beneficial. Certainly, it is stressful enough for wild penguins to be coated in oil, and more stressful still to be handled by humans; stifling them in an unfamiliar sweater might only add to the stress. There is additional concern that the penguins could overheat while wearing the sweaters.
With this latest call for penguin sweaters garnering international attention, it seems likely that they will receive more penguin pullovers than necessary. Last time, the penguin rehab facility used the extras to dress up stuffed penguin toys and sold them to the public to raise money for the organization. That way, even if the outfits weren’t worn by the real penguins themselves, at least the knitters could take comfort in knowing that their efforts benefitted the wellbeing of the penguins and that someone was enjoying their handiwork.
This time around, the Penguin Foundation is aware of the influx of sweaters it will receive and is already planning to use the vast majority of them for fundraising efforts.
Fear not! If you love animals and you love knitting, there are still other, less publicized causes that could use your talents instead:
Photo Credit: Penguin Foundation Facebook page
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