Australia’s Oldest Man Knits Sweaters For Little Penguins Affected By Oil Spills

At 109-years-old, Alfred Date is the oldest living Australian. He’s also an avid knitter and began knitting over 80 years ago. Recently, he put his knitting skills to work to help the endangered little penguins of Phillip Island!


Winning designs for the Knits For Nature program/Phillip Island Penguin Foundation. Photo credit: Penguin Foundation

The Penguin Foundation of Phillip Island had put out a call for knitters to make the jumpers as part of their Knit for Nature program and Alfred answered the call.

Why do the penguins need sweaters? The jumpers play an important role in saving the lives of the penguins affected by oil pollution. Just a patch of oil the size of a thumb nail can kill a little penguin. So the sweaters are put on the penguins to prevent them from preening and swallowing the toxic oil before they are washed and the oil is removed.


Alfred Date. Photo credit: ninemsn

It’s a proven method. In 2001, 438 penguins were affected by a major oil spill near Phillip Island. The jumpers aided the little penguins in their recovery and 96 percent of the birds be successfully rehabilitated.


A Phillip Island penguin with a knitted sweater on.

Upon learning Alfred’s age, the Penguin Foundation officially named Alfred their “most senior little penguin jumper knitter.” If Alfred is the foundation’s oldest knitter, then 95-year-old Merle Davenport comes in a close second!

The grandmother is also recognized by the group as one of their powerhouse knitters. She’s knitted for Phillip Island’s little penguins for 15 years and has “managed to rib, garter and purl her way through 1000 fancy designs.”


Merle Davenport. Photo credit: Penguin Foundation

The foundation says they have plenty of penguin jumpers at the moment (donated by generous knitters across the globe) and do not need any further sweaters at this time. You can find out more about their Knits for Nature program on their website.

What wonderful volunteers Alfred and Merle are! Share this story with your friends and family who love animals!


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