Posted on 23/01/2014 by Phillip Island Nature Parks
She may be 95 years of age, but don’t let grandmother Merle Davenport pull the wool over your eyes – she’s a powerhouse knitter with over 1000 penguin jumpers under her belt.
Since the late 1990s Merle Davenport has been knitting jumpers for Phillip Island’s most famous residents (the penguins, not the Hemsworths…) and in 15 years has managed to rib, garter and purl her way through 1000 fancy designs for her feathered friends. Merle has helped countless penguins with her knitting skills and her chic and timeless designs are a hit in fundraising and helping penguins affected by oil spills.
Merle took up the penguin jumper knitting crusade after reports of an oil spill affecting Phillip Island’s famous little penguins in 1998. A patch of oil the size of an adult’s thumbnail can kill a little penguin. The oil separates the feathers, allowing water to get in and causing penguins to become cold, heavy and less able to successfully hunt for food.
Over the years Merle has sent the jumpers to the Penguin Foundation, a charity dedicated to raising funds for conservation, research and the care of sick or injured penguins on Phillip Island.
“The small woollen jumpers are placed on the birds to keep them warm and prevent them from preening their feathers and swallowing the toxic oil,” explains Lauren Jones of the Penguin Foundation.
Jumpers arrive from keen knitters across the world and those not suitable for rehabilitation use (too loose or the wrong type of wool) are sold on toy penguins with all proceeds going to the Penguin Foundation.
For details about the Penguin Foundation’s work, including its ‘adopt-a-penguin’ program or the knitted penguin jumper pattern visit www.penguinfoundation.org.au.