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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 15:49 GMT
Penguin jumpers mercy flight
Fairy penguins in their jumpers
Penguins are kept warm (Picture courtesy of the Trust)
Thousands of woolly jumpers, which will prevent penguins from perishing from the cold, have left Gloucestershire for Tasmania.

A total of 5,000 jumpers, knitted by volunteers in Gloucestershire and Shropshire, were packed on to a flight to the Australian island on Friday.

The jumpers will provide a lifeline to a colony of Fairy Penguins on the island, which are threatened by frequent oil slicks from the ships that pass near their home.

Cleaning the birds robs them of the natural oils that keep them warm, the jumpers protect the penguins from the cold as they re-oil their feathers.

'Amazing response'

The volunteers knitted the jumpers in response to calls for help on BBC Radio Gloucestershire and Radio Shropshire.

Martin Evans, the action desk producer at Radio Gloucestershire said: "The response has been amazing, over 900 people called and e-mailed the action desk offering to help, so I knew we would have a few jumpers to send off.

"But an official count was needed for customs, and it revealed that 4,203 pullies had been knitted."

The remaining 800 jumpers were made in Shropshire.

Penguins live across the Australian coast
The jumpers are only 40cm high to fit the tiny birds, fairy penguins - also known as little blue penguins - are the smallest of the species.

The design is based on a pattern provided by the Tasmania Conservation Trust.

The penguins, which are indigenous to Australia, live on a small set of islands near a shipping route and are often hit by oil slicks.

In addition to keeping the penguins warm the jumpers stop the birds preening themselves and swallowing the toxic oil, before their feathers get washed.

Click here to go to BBC Shropshire
See also:

12 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Antarctic penguins in peril
18 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Warmth puts penguins under pressure
21 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Penguins wear jumpers
02 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Penguin treated for depression
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Navy probes penguin puzzle
25 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Penguin fever grips Taiwan
05 Dec 98 | Americas
Penguins in peril
07 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
P-p-p-pick out a penguin
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