They survive in some of the coldest environments in the world - but even penguins appreciate a warm woolly jumper once in a while.

The mini knitted garments have helped save hundreds of flightless birds caught in oil spills, providing protection from the elements and stopping them from ingesting poisonous pollution.

Knits for Nature, a program run by The Penguin Foundation, which conserves the little penguin population of Phillip Island, 140km south-east of Melbourne, has created up to 300 different designs over the years - and it's all thanks to talented volunteers.

‘There’s a lot of hidden creativity out there,' said Lyn Blom, of the Phillip Island Nature Park.

'People love to know that they’re helping the penguins because they’re so cute and small and they waddle up the beach and they’re so feisty. But they need to be, they live in a pretty tough sort of environment.’
“人们愿意帮助企鹅,因为它们又小又可爱,活跃极了。在沙滩上摇摆着身体走动时,它们又显得那么坚强。 这又是必然的,毕竟它们生活在这么恶劣的条件下。”

A thumbnail-sized patch of oil can kill little penguins, the smallest of the species, measuring just 13 inches (33cm) and weighing 2.2lbs (1kg). The oil separates and mats their feathers, breaking natural waterproofing and heating functions.

Ms Blom estimates she has knitted between 200 and 300 penguin jumpers over the years, including ones in the colours of every Australian Rules football team in the country.

A staff member read an article in an English women’s magazine about knitting for guillemot birds and decided to adapt the designs.

‘There’s an awful lot of ladies out there who used to knit for their children and grandchildren. These ladies have spare wool and idle hands, and they love to feel loved and needed and we love and need them,’ said Ms Blom.

The Penguin Foundation recently staged a competition for the most creative jumper, which received an enthusiastic response.

The Penguin Foundation rescues approximately 20 birds a year. They even have a stockpile of jumpers in case of emergency - such as the large oil spill near Phillip Island in 2001.

In that instance, 453 Little Penguins were affected, 96 percent of which were saved - most thanks to the jumpers.