Too cute to be true! Tiny penguins in tiny sweaters are adorable but fake

The image of tiny penguins modeling tiny wool sweaters is enough to give anyone the warm and fuzzies and make them say "aww." But don't be fooled; while the story is real, the penguins are fake -- nothing more than stuffed animals posed on a beach.

Last year, when the Penguin Foundation on Phillip Island in Australia put out a call for sweaters for penguins injured in an oil spill, centenarian and prolific knitter Alfred "Alfie" Date knew he had to help.

Hundreds of Little Penguins, a a species only found in southern Australia and New Zealand, needed the sweaters to prevent them from preening and swallowing the toxic oil.

The Penguin Foundation decreed Date their "most senior little penguin jumper knitter," but at 109 years old, he's also Australia's most senior citizen.

But Date was not the only knitter who wanted to help. The foundation was quickly inundated with more tiny sweaters (called "jumpers" in Australia) than it would ever need. In a post on its website, the foundation wrote:

    "Thank you to keen knitters who have donated penguin jumpers from across the globe for rehabilitation in the event of an oil spill, fundraising and education programs. We do not need any further donations at this time."

But recognizing the chord it had struck, the foundation continued to use the tiny sweaters to raise awareness for penguin conservation. Avid knitters sent in colorful, humorous and ornate penguin sweaters for a "Knit to Win" little penguin jumper competition.

And that's where that image you're seeing comes from.

Those six tiny penguins posed in a line in their adorable little sweaters are plush toys modeling the designs of the contest winners. While it's easy to be fooled at first glance, a closer examination reveals seams and stitching running down their heads and beaks.

When questioned on Facebook for the somewhat misleading image, the foundation had a humorous response.

    "We had a little help from some toy penguins...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 dear old man knitting tiny sweaters is real. The need for tiny sweaters for little injured penguins was real, once upon a time. But that too cute pic of the fashion-savvy penguins on the beach -- totally fake.
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