The Oldest Man In Australia Spends Most Of His Time Knitting These Sweaters For Penguin

These penguins aren't wearing these sweaters just for looks. Although, we have to say, they do look adorable. Actually, the Penguin Foundation on Phillip Island, Australia, are saving these little penguins' lives with these teeny-tiny sweaters. And by little, we don’t just mean in appearance. The species’ name is actually the “little penguin.” They were so named because it is in fact the smallest species of penguin in the world. Native to Australia and New Zealand, they’re at the opposite end of the scale from the emperor penguin. Nevertheless, they’re simply precious little animals, who also happen to be skilled sea hunters, eating 25% of their body weight in food daily. But due to their small size, they’re especially at risk from the damaging effects of oil spills.

If there are oil spills near penguins, then often times their feathers get stuck together and matted. 

Feathers coated in oil makes it nearly impossible for them to stay warm and it puts them at risk of dying from hypothermia. So these penguins wear cozy sweaters to keep them warm, while waiting to be cleaned.

Sweaters also serve an additional purpose, they discourage penguins from accidentally swallowing the oil while trying to clean themselves.


Often times there are several washes to help clean the oil off the penguins’ feathers. But once it's removed, then they're released back into the wild. 

This crafty 95-year-old woman, Merle Davenport, has knitted over 1,000 penguin sweaters. She's one of the Penguin Foundation's volunteers that helps out with creating these cute little sweaters. 

But Merle’s not the only talented senior working to save these little cuties. There’s also Alfred “Alfie” Date, Australia’s oldest man at 109 years of age.

Alfie was tasked with this lifesaving hobby by a couple of nurses at the care home where he lives. He’s been knitting for over 80 years. His very first project was a sweater for his baby nephew in the 1930s!


Alfie’s a great-great-grandfather now, and still knits scarves and hats and all sorts of things for his friends and family. He hates to make mistakes in his work but concedes that being 109 is a pretty good excuse for a dropped stitch or two. For the penguins, he sticks with simple patterns so he can make them quickly and so he knows they will be warm enough. Alfie and Merle are official volunteers for the Penguin Foundation and for their rescue efforts they actually have specific needs. The wool must be heavy and thick to ensure proper insulation. That hasn’t stopped others from donating sweaters to try and help save these aquatic birds. Unfortunately, as adorable as many of them are, some of them don’t meet the requirements. Sometimes they are too big, too small, the wrong material or not warm enough. That’s okay though! The foundation quickly realized that with so many adorable penguin sweaters and not enough penguins to dress in them, there was only one thing to do:

Dress up stuffed penguin toys and sell them to raise money! Each sweater is one of those handcrafted items that didn’t make the cut for real penguin use (or, as is the current situation, was simply one too many!).

There are multiple ways you can own your own adorable stuffed penguin replete with adorable sweater. The best option is the Penguin Pal adoption program. Your money not only buys you one of these cuddly friends but also “adopts” a real penguin and provides you with an adoption certificate, information about these animals, free passes and invitations to their sanctuary if you ever happen to make it down that far south, and more!

Credit: Penguin Foundation

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