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Swedish grannies in bid to save freezing penguins

David Landes · 10 Nov 2011, 16:00

Published: 10 Nov 2011 16:00 GMT+01:00

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“I bet there are about 40 people working on the sweaters,” Anna-Karin Gustafsson, one of the organizers of the initiative, told The Local.

Gustafsson is the treasurer of a Kreativitetshuset Lyan, a local community centre located in Österbymo in central Sweden which decided to take action to help New Zealand's freezing penguins.

Hundreds of the country's native blue penguins found themselves caught up in an oil spill caused by the grounding of a cargo ship in early October.

When penguin feathers come in contact with oil, it opens up channels in the birds' densely packed feathers, allowing water to penetrate through to their skin, making it hard for them to keep warm.

Last week, Gustafsson and her colleagues learned of an initiative launched by a New Zealand yarn store calling on fleet-fingered knitters around the world to produce penguin-sized jumpers to help the birds stay warm until they are well enough to be properly washed and to prevent them from ingesting the oil stuck to their feathers.

“It seemed obvious that we should do a little something that could make a difference between life and death for these little penguins,” said Gustafsson, a self-proclaimed “animal nut”.

An appeal put out on Facebook earlier in the week prompted an overwhelming response from the local community and also caught the attention of the national media.

“The hardest thing was actually getting a hold of enough of the right kind of yarn,” Gustafsson explained.

By Wednesday, the community centre had distributed “tonnes” of patterns to members young and old, who, by the end of the week, were all busy knitting as fast as their fingers allowed, according to Gustafsson.

“My mother-in-law has already finished three sweaters,” she said, adding that the group has set a goal of producing 100 penguin jumpers to send to New Zealand by the end of next week.

“We'll meet again on Monday to start collecting the sweaters. I'm guessing we'll get a big box full.”

Once the sweaters are collected, Gustafsson and her colleagues plan to ship them to the yarn store in New Zealand that started the campaing, which will then see to it that they end up on the backs of the oil-damaged penguins.

Story continues below…

She said the entire project has been an uplifting experience for her.

“It's great for the penguins. And it shows that when everyone pitches in, anything is possible,” she said.

When asked whether any plans are afoot for members of the Lyan community centre to travel from Sweden to New Zealand for a first hand look at the penguin sweaters in action, Gustafsson said that nothing has been organized yet.

“But it's not impossible. We'll see where things go. It would be fun to see the penguins dressed up in the sweaters we made,” she said.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:53 November 10, 2011 by Ebco
What a load of old BS from the Local again.
03:13 November 11, 2011 by yourkidding
Bravo Anna-Karin Gustafsson! Good for you and your organization. Genuine caring is getting more rare everyday and the wildlife is paying the price for our negligence, oil spills for an example.

Nice to see a article here about a woman doing something valuable and not just more mammaries being exposed or foul mouthed tramps posing as entertainers and such.

I applaud the girls from Österbymo.
07:38 November 11, 2011 by karex
The more news about positive actions, the more positive actions can be inspired. Loved the article!

Good show grannies!
10:09 November 11, 2011 by salalah

Oh, well thanks...but this wool sweater makes me want to jump off a cliff!!!
18:22 November 11, 2011 by SockRayBlue
Cute, Salalah, wool shrinks when it dries.
20:33 November 11, 2011 by old jack
I want to see them all with their little sweaters on. :)
20:48 November 11, 2011 by Ebco
All well and good but trouble is the story is all BS.They cant put wool on the birds.The same sort of story was here a month ago.(NZ)but was found to be Sunday paper rubbish.
20:44 November 15, 2011 by Beebeekis
i too would like to share my experience with cleaning of penguins in South Africa, firstly Oiling is the biggest single threat to African penguins. Oiled penguins lose the water-proofing on their feathers and swallow the oil as they try to clean themselves. Ships use seawater to clean out their tanks at sea which causes more pollution than an oil spillage.

Oil spill disasters create instant crises. In 2000 the cargo ship The Treasure sank off Cape Town leaving 20,000 African penguins covered in oil.

We help oiled penguins by supporting the South African charity SANCCOB. Each year, 1000 oiled penguins are brought to SANCCOB's rehabilitation centre near Cape Town. Volunteers at SANCCOB help to de-oil and clean them, nurse them back to health

As well as learning about the life-cycle and conservation of the African penguin, which is still an endangered species, volunteers are also very "hands-on," being taught how to catch, hold, feed and tube feed these wonderful birds - each with their own individual characters. then release them back into the wild. This takes up to 6 weeks.

we worked real hard everyday cleaning the penguins, As well as learning about the life-cycle and conservation of the African penguin, which is still an endangered species, We were also very "hands-on," being taught how to catch, hold, feed and tube feed these wonderful birds - each with their own individual characters. Their were about 20 000 penguins, waiting to be saved,

We were also involved in a variety of daily tasks, including the preparation of fish, cleaning the pens, pools and mats, sterilizing syringes and more.But be warned, as cute as they are, penguins will bite given the opportunity. The training we received, together with the protective clothing provided ,we all led the penguins to safety, i will always remember the feeling of joy, when we released back into nature...i no you will 100 jerseys ready on time,,,! well done,
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