Image 1 - Urgent Plea For Penguin Sweaters Following New Zealand Oil Spill
October 21, 2011

Urgent Plea For Penguin Sweaters Following New Zealand Oil Spill

An environmental news organization has issued a plea for help on behalf of thousands of Little Blue Penguins, who face a serious risk of freezing or being poisoned to death after an oil spill off New Zealand´s coast unleashed 2,500 barrels of fuel into the fragile ecosystem.

The Seattle-based group is asking the world to send in penguin sweaters, which will keep the birds warm and prevent them from preening and swallowing toxic oil on their feathers until workers can remove it.

“Now is the time for all good knitters to come to the aid of some penguins,” the group wrote.

“The New Zealand oil spill has left the little guys in need of some warmth and protection,” Grist said, referring to the Tauranga oil spill that began on October 5, when the MV Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef.

The ship was carrying 1,368 containers, eight of which contained hazardous materials, as well as 1,700 tons of heavy fuel oil and 200 tons of marine diesel.  New Zealand´s Environment Minister called the spill the nation´s "worst ever environmental disaster".

“It's a genuine request -- the woolens keep oil-soaked birds warm until they're well enough to be cleaned, and prevent them from nibbling oil off their feathers,” Grist wrote.

Grist said that the idea of knitting sweaters for penguins is so “gosh-darn charming” that people tend to go a little nuts trying to help out.

Indeed, many Little Blues have already been outfitted with “penguin jumpers” leftover from stockpiles following a similar incident in the region in 2001.

At that time, a call put out by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust for penguin jumpers went viral, allowing the group to easily exceed their goal of 100 stockpiled sweaters.

But more are still needed, Grist said.

A Kiwi yarn store has posted patterns for how to knit "penguin jumpers" and instructions on where to send them.