Alfred ‘Alfie’ Date learned to knit in the 1930s so that he could make a jumper for his new nephew. Flash forward over 80 years, and Alfie’s knitting skills are allowing him to help his country’s wildlife. Amazingly enough, at 109 years old, Alfie is worried about having idle hands, so he is putting his knitting needles to work and creating the most adorable sweaters for penguins!
When Alfie arrived at his new home, an elderly-care village on the New South Wales Central Coast, he was immediately asked if he could put his well-known knitting skills to good use. Around that time in March 2014, Phillip Island’s Penguin Foundation requested the help of knitters around the world to make sweaters for penguins who had fallen victim to an oil spill. So naturally, Alfie signed up!
Sweaters are vital in the rescue of penguins affected by oil spills. A patch of oil the size of a thumbnail can cause their feathers separate and get matted together, allowing the cold to reach their otherwise protected skin. Penguins who are covered with oil will instinctively try and clean themselves by picking at their feathers with their beaks, this causes them to ingest oil which can damage their digestive system. Placing sweaters on rescued penguins prevents them from ingesting any oil while preening and keeps them nice and warm.
The idea to knit sweaters for penguins started after an oil spill in 2001 affected 438 penguins. Thanks to these sweater donations, 96 percent of the penguins were saved, rehabilitated and released back into the wild by the Wildlife Clinic at Phillip Island Nature Parks. So, when another spill compromised penguins in 2014, the foundation asked for more sweater donations.
The response to the Penguin Foundation’s request for sweaters was amazing. They quickly had more than enough, including a bunch made by Alfie!
Alfie continues to knit and send penguin sweaters to the Penguin Foundation. “It’s amazing and we feel quite privileged to have him dedicating his time and effort to the Penguin Foundation,” a spokesperson told ABC’s Nine News.
Alfie’s knitting skills and dedication to the penguins is truly inspiring. He is officially our favorite little-penguin-jumper-knitter!
Though there is no longer a need for knitted penguin sweaters, there are plenty of ways to help the Penguin Foundation. For more information, visit their website here.
Lead image source: Daily Mail Australia