March 11, 2014

Do These Adorable Penguins Really Need us to Knit Sweaters?

An adorable yet sad topic circulates around the internet from time to time.

Recently is one of those times.

The story is a plea for penguins who have been victims of oil spills. Bloggers everywhere have hopped on this pathetic but endearing story from ABC news in Melbourne who claim that The Penguin Foundation is asking volunteers to knit sweaters for penguins who were involved in a spill in New Zealand.

It’s said that when the penguins are cleaned, that their natural oils are also stripped too, and the sweaters help them keep warm.

The ABC article states that “While the Penguin Foundation’s website says it currently has a ‘good supply’ of the little jumpers, the organisation also uses them in educational programs as well as selling them as a fundraising measure.”

Yet the article also offers that these sweaters aren’t just used in major oil spills because this is an on-going problem, as “fishermen might clean out a container or something while they’re at sea.”

The organization says they get about 20 birds a year.

And I so wanted to instantly buy into this story lighting up my Facebook newsfeed, but I had to be a little skeptical as well. I mean, sweaters for penguins?

I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed when I found this Snopes article.

The Snopes rendition states that “the original result was an oversubscription of this entreaty for aid, with the appeal threatening to escalate into a “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” situation. One thousand sweaters were quickly received, with more arriving all the time. The organizers originally wanted to conclude this part of its Oil Spill Response Program, but then rethought that Penguins in sweatersaction, deciding to ask the knitting public for an additional two thousand penguin sweaters. 

However, despite those good intentions, other wildlife officials have stated in connection with similar efforts that knitting garments for penguins accomplishes little (other than fulfilling an instinctive human need to help), as penguins don’t really benefit from wearing vests and sweaters, and many items crafted for that purpose have simply accumulated in unused piles.”

The blog of the International Bird Rescue organization also states that sweaters “are not considered a useful tool for the rehabilitation of oiled birds, primarily penguins,” with some bird experts suggesting that this would be traumatic for them.

And, actually, the Penguin Foundation states this directly on their website: “Please know that we do not urgently require little penguin jumpers for rehabilitation, we have a good supply of these which we use on any rescued oiled penguins and in the event of an oil spill, these jumpers are also sent to other wildlife rescue centres if required.”

So, should you or shouldn’t you break out your knitting needles?

I have to agree with the Snopes article on this one: there’s no wrong answer.

Knitting is a great, often yoga-like hobby and these sweaters can be used to teach children about both knitting and charity. However, if you really want to help the penguins out, I would strongly consider donating funds directly to the Penguin Foundation.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

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