You may have recently seen the heartwarming story of Australia's oldest man (109 years young!) who knits sweaters for penguins. The story is currently making the rounds with an adorable photo purporting to show the grateful penguins of Australia's Phillip Island. The only problem? Those penguins in that particular photo are totally fake.
The photo comes from the Penguin Foundation's Facebook page. As they explained in the comments to the photo when questioned about the fake-looking birds:
We had a little help from some toy penguins, Jenny. Our photographer tells us they're the best models he's ever worked with - no demands for water that's been purified by unicorns in Peru and minimal make-up required because they're all naturally good looking. Plus, we're all about positive body image and welcome toy penguin models of all shapes and sizes!
So there you have it. The other thing that the aggregated and regurgitated stories scraping the original (and true!) story from Nine News don't mention? The penguins don't really need sweaters anymore. Sweaters were originally used on penguins after a 2000 oil spill. They kept the birds from preening themselves and potentially ingesting oil before they could be properly cleaned. Many people jumped at the chance to help, but pretty soon, the clean-up organizations had more penguin-sized sweaters than they would ever need.
There was another call for penguin sweaters in 2014 by the Penguin Foundation to stockpile in case another oil spill ever happened. But, again, they were quickly inundated with more sweaters than they could handle.
As the Penguin Foundation noted after the outpouring of sweaters (known as "jumpers" in Australia), they don't need any more:
** Please note that we have plenty of penguin jumpers at this time donated by generous knitters across the globe for rehabilitation in the event of an oil spill, fundraising and education programs and do not need any further donations at this time. Thank you kindly for your interest in knitting to support the little penguins of Phliip Island! Further information on the program and how penguin jumpers benefit little penguin conservation can be found below. Thank you! **
To be clear, the story of Australia's oldest man and his earlier efforts to make knit sweaters is totally real. But that photo and the impression that this is ongoing need is simply not true.