Author Options:

How to save an oiled penguin (with knitting!) Answered

Biologist Jeremy Gray explains how penguins are cleaned up after the New Zealand spill:

First the penguins must be warm and happy. Most are kept overnight before washing, as it is very stressful and they need to get their strength up.

Then the birds are brought into the cleaning room and put on the table.

Normally detergent is used to clean wildlife caught in an oil slick.  But the fuel oil that's spilled from the Rena is really thick, so we first rinse the birds with canola oil, sold as cooking oil at the supermarket. This helps soften the fuel oil and get off the really thick stuff.

Then the penguin is washed multiple times in 25L basins of warm water - about 41C, to match the bird's body temperature - with 100ml of dishwashing detergent in each basin. We use specially imported dishwashing liquid that's the best for the job.

We change water four or five times. One vet holds the bird, while the other scrubs it. We have toothbrushes for the delicate bits.

Once the oil is gone, the bird gets a final rinse in warm water only, and is then checked for any missed spots, and the detergent is washed off.

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for each bird to be washed.

The birds are then taken to a clean room and put under heat lamps and blowers to dry.

The clean room is strictly oil-free - no-one who has touched any oil is even allowed in, in order to prevent recontamination.

Once clean and dried, the birds are kept in a water tank until healthy enough to be released. And swimming in clean water lets them preen their feathers back to their natural condition.

During my shift - we're only allowed to work eight hours - I helped clean three penguins.

And as I was sent home they were gearing up to do the rest.

At the time there were six dirty penguins (seven until one died before cleaning), seven clean penguins, one clean seal and two clean shags. More penguins and seals have since arrived.


Now for the knitting...

The penguins are in danger from the cold (they're penguins, duh!), but they do need jumpers.  A full-body woolly jumper stops them preening contaminated feathers  and ingesting the toxic oil.

Volunteers have been using this pattern from Skeinz.com and knitting jumpers to keep the Little Blue penguins safe.

So far, I have only seen photos of the jumper being worn by stuffed toys - if you come across one being used for real, could you let me know?

More links:

Oiled Wildlife Response

Jeremy Gray's Flickr (the original source of the penguin photos)



Reply 8 years ago

Is it wrong to find that cute?


8 years ago

Super, good stuff.