Phillip Island is located south-east of Melbourne, Australia, and is home to 26,000 fairy penguins ("look at the little punim!") on a 340-hectare penguin reserve.
In January, 2000, a oil spill near Phillip Island presented a two-pronged threat to the local fairy-penguin population: besides poisoning themselves by preening their feathers and thereby consuming the oil, the contaminated penguins were rendered unable to swim because of the disruption of natural waterproofing oils on their feathers.
Rescue workers rose to the occasion but found it difficult to keep the penguins warm and to keep them from ingesting the oil. They eventually hit upon the idea of dressing the penguins in doll sweaters, and a call went out on the Internet for knitters to send in penguin-sized wool sweaters.
With all due respect to the knitters I've known (and being someone who has myself taken up knitting), I have to say knitters are some of the most insane people around (willie warmers, anyone?) with a compulsive thirst for new projects. It is therefore no surprise that knitters responded in droves. Since the pattern is so simple (knit a few here, purl a few there), even sixth-graders got into the act, learning how to knit and sending shipments of sweaters off to their feathered friends. All told, more than a thousand sweaters have arrived at the reserve, thanks to "the power of the Internet".
And that's plenty. Please don't send any more penguin sweaters. If you need a new Internet-driven cause to champion, consider instead the plight of Sooty, the Himalayan guinea pig who garnered celebrity notoriety last year when he escaped from his pen and tunneled into a cage of 24 female guinea pigs, whom he managed to impregnate in one night of orgiastic abandon. Though Sooty's 43 piglet progeny were subsequently found homes, Sooty's farm in South Wales is closed to visitors because of the foot-and-mouth-disease epidemic. His owners are finding it financially difficult to support him and his fellow furry farm friends and so are soliciting donations. Cash or check, but please, no sweaters.