SAN DIEGO, Cal. (AP) — A member of the San Diego Zoo’s African penguin colony has been fitted with orthopedic footwear to help it deal with a degenerative foot condition.
The 4-year-old penguin named Lucas has lesions on his feet due to a chronic condition known as bumblefoot, which covers a range of avian foot problems, the San Diego Wildlife Alliance said Monday in a news release.
“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,” said Dr. Beth Bicknese, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo. “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.”
If left untreated, bumblefoot could lead to sepsis and death by infection.
The penguin’s problems began more than three years ago when he developed a spinal infection that resulted in weak muscles in his legs and the inability to properly stand upright on his toes.
The zoo’s wildlife care specialists turned to an organization called Thera-Paw, which creates rehabilitative and assistive products for animals with special needs.
Thera-Paw created custom shoes made of neoprene and rubber to prevent pressure sores from developing when Lucas stands and walks.
“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.”
African penguins have suffered a massive population decline and are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
To read more about Lucas’s journey, click here.