Penguin Sweaters

Another oil spill, another request for penguin sweaters. This time it’s a spill off New Zealand, usually cited as the Tauranga spill. People have been rescuing penguins and a number of sites have begun publishing penguin sweater patterns and asking that they be sent to a yarn store in New Zealand. Suspicious people (like myself) wonder if this whole thing is a hoax. Short answer: it isn’t.

Penguin sweater from 2000 spill off Phillip Island, Tasmania. (via

When oil-soaked penguins are taken from the water they tend to try to groom themselves. That’s why they get the sweaters, primarilly to keep the birds from poisoning themselves, but also to keep them warm. Once the birds have been washed, the oily sweaters are thrown away and fresh sweaters are put on the penguins until they regain their natural oils, then they are de-sweatered and released into the wild. The pattern for the sweater (which you can download from a link below) was developed by Marg Healy for the Tasmanian Conservation Trust after an oil spill there more than a decade ago.

So far so good, but (and you knew there had to be a but) should you knit a sweater for a bird you don’t even know? Short answer: maybe.

That Tasmania appeal worked but left the Conservation Trust with more than 15000 unused sweaters! Tasmania is good for penguin oil spills for a long time to come. New Zealand could just ask for some, but apparently think having their own appeal is better. Or at least the yarn store that’s publicizing the sweater appeal thought it was better, but now has plenty of sweaters. Takeaway: they don’t need any more sweaters right now but if you’re a slow knitter or late to the party, don’t worry, knit a few in time for the next spill (and you know this will happen again).

Marg Healy’s pattern on Ravelry.



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