You’ve probably heard that penguins get covered in muck from oil spills, which makes them chilly. Thus, we should all take a break from infinity scarves and snail jumpers to knit sweaters for penguins. Not true! Put down those knitting needles!
As we mentioned when this story went around in 2011, there really have been calls for penguin sweaters from wildlife conservation groups. But response tends to be disproportionate, and organizations are flooded with seabird apparel, a fraction of which — if any — gets used. Plus, penguin advocates dispute whether the knitwear is a good idea to begin with.
Being squeezed into a sweater can freak a penguin out — and it’s really not necessary, thanks to heat lamps. The New Zealand Herald explains:
A keeper at Auckland Zoo said the idea of making the little birds wear the jerseys might cause them extra stress …
“Putting something like that on a penguin, it’s probably only going to stress it out even more than they already are. These are wild penguins; they haven’t had any interaction with humans. There’s already enough stress on a bird without trying to put a sweater on it,” [bird keeper Natalie Clark] said.
The last thing we want to do is to put something over their feathers that causes the oil to be pressed against their skin, or impairs the evaporation of the aromatics put off by the oil. Penguins and other birds can also overheat very quickly, and the sweaters increase this risk.
Yikes! Stick to knitting baby onesies. Or socks. Or outfits for cats — we hear cats like costumes a LOT.
Addendum: There is a real, new call for penguin sweaters — but they’re not for putting on penguins. They’re for dressing cuddly toys that piggyback on the popularity of the whole penguin-sweater idea. For knitters who aren’t already in Australia and New Zealand, it’s probably not worth shipping your completed sweater down there — you could just send a cash donation to the Penguin Foundation. But if you have your own penguin you want to keep warm, here’s the pattern.
Sweaters on Penguins, International Bird Rescue.