Lucas, a four-year-old African penguin, has been given a new lease of life thanks to brand-spanking new orthopedic shoes. Designed by Thera-Paw, a company that specializes in rehabilitative products for animals, the boots allow Lucas to strut his stuff in comfort – and, of course, style – around his San Diego Zoo enclosure.
We’re sure his fresh kicks will make Lucas the envy of the African penguin colony, but they’ll also help to protect his feet and ankles as he goes about his daily penguin business.
Lucas has had a degenerative foot condition for the last three years due to a spinal cord infection that left him unable to stand on his toes and weakened the muscles in his legs. The condition, called bumblefoot, is fairly common in birds, rodents, and rabbits, characterized by irritation to the feet. This can range from mild redness to abscesses, which, if left untreated, can leave an animal vulnerable to secondary infections and sepsis – both of which could be life-threatening.
The teams at Thera-Paw and San Diego Zoo hope that the boots, made from neoprene and rubber, will help to protect the sores already on Lucas’s feet and prevent him from developing any more.
“I’ve known Lucas for a long time, so having the ability to provide him with a chance to live a normal life brings a smile to my face,” Dr Beth Bicknese, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo said in a statement. “The boots are cushioned and Velcroed in place, so they will help Lucas to fully participate in the colony and showcase behaviors that are more typical for a penguin – such as climbing the rocks, swimming, nesting and finding a suitable mate.”
According to the zoo’s wildlife care specialists, it looks like they’re already working. Since fitting the boots, the team has noticed improvements in Lucas’s gait and, consequently, his ability to navigate the rocky terrain of his home, plus posture and balance.
It seems the unlucky penguin might have his mojo back.
“We were pleasantly surprised at the immediate change in Lucas after we fitted him with his new boots,” said Debbie Denton, senior wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo. “Seeing him move about now gives us hope that he may be OK going forward, and able to live a full life.”
Lucas isn’t the only animal getting a helping hand by accessorizing. Who could forget the giraffe with specialized leg braces, or the celebrity cetacean with a prosthetic tail? We’ve also seen vulture bionic limbs, custom-printed bill prosthetics, and titanium paws. Apparently, Lucas isn’t just in style, he’s in good company too.