In January 2000, an oil slick off southern Australia threatened the Phillip Island breeding stock of the world's smallest penguin. The little, of fairy, penguin stands 18 inches tall and weighs a little more than 2 pounds. The oil rendered the penguins' feathers useless against the cold.
Menbers of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust came to the little penguins' aid, capturing and cleaning them. During the birds' rehabilitation, the rescuers relied on wool to insulate them and keep them from preening their feathers and ingesting residual oil.
To inspire community support, the Trust published a knitting pattern for penguin sweaters in a national magazine. Thousands of tiny woolly jerseys were specially knitted and sent from as far away as Japan. For the fashion-conscious penguin there is a wide choice of colors and designs, even a black and white tuxedo number, complete with bow tie. The pattern is based on one used for penguins in the northern hemisphere, only smaller. It was re-designed for the little penguins in the southern hemisphere. Many older ladies in nursing homes made jerseys in their favorite football team colors and used scraps of wool to make patchwork tops. The jerseys will be kept in case they are needed for future oil spills.