A yarn store in New Zealand is making an unusual request that is pulling at the heart-strings of the world—they are asking people to sew knit sweaters for penguins affected by the country’s oil spill.
The “penguin jumpers” are intended to keep the birds warm until they are well enough to be scrubbed down and to prevent them from consuming oil on their feathers while preening.
The yarn store is called Skeinz and is located in Napier, New Zealand. They posted the request along with instructions and patterns on their website and have already received a “deluge” of jumpers.
“It’s really precious and overwhelming,” the store posted on its blog along with photos of piles of penguin sweaters.
On Oct. 5, a cargo ship ran aground in New Zealand, pouring 350 tons of oil into the ocean. The accident has been regarded as the country’s worst environmental disaster in decades.
More than 1,000 sea birds have already died as a result of the spill, including birds from the country’s native blue penguin population.
Oil can be extremely harmful to penguins, whose feathers are very different from other birds. They have very dense and tiny feathers of different lengths that stick onto them like Velcro, creating a waterproof pseudo-wetsuit.
“Basically, when you get even a drop of oil on these birds, it opens up a channel so water can penetrate,” Kevin McGowan of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology told ABCNews.com. “It’s like a hole in their wetsuit.”
McGowan said the sweaters could be the equivalent of the plastic cones sometimes put on dogs to prevent them from scratching stitches after surgery or poking at head injuries.
“When they’re wet, the cold can penetrate, especially in water,” McGowan said. “You don’t want anything to penetrate through that wetsuit armor and oil is a pretty bad thing.”
Specifications and instructions for the penguin PJ’s can be found on the Skeinz website as well as the address where penguin-loving knitters can send them.