Petrol-Plastered Penguins in Peril

By Josie GlausiuszNov 1, 2001 6:00 AM


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After a 1995 oil tanker spill at the mouth of Tasmania's Tamar River poisoned a colony of Little Penguins, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust swore the birds would never again be left defenseless. They have now unveiled their unconventional armory: a stockpile of stylish sweaters, knitted by volunteers worldwide. In an emergency, rescue workers plan to clothe contaminated birds in the woolly jumpers to prevent them from ingesting the oil--which the 15-inch-tall penguins, being industrious preeners, are prone to do. Rescued penguins often die from oil poisoning before workers can decontaminate them. Once the penguins are cleaned and released, the sweaters will be discarded. Penguins Project officer Craig Woodfield reports that the trust's call to knitting arms produced an influx of more than 4,500 suits for the estimated 150,000 breeding pairs of Little Penguins in and around Tasmania.

Photograph courtesy of Tasmanian Conservation Trust

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