SAN DIEGO — A penguin at the San Diego Zoo has been fitted with custom orthopedic footwear to assist with a degenerative foot condition, zoo officials announced Monday.
Lucas, a 4-year-old African penguin, has a chronic condition called bumblefoot — an umbrella term for a variety of degenerative foot conditions in avian animals, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) said in a news release.
Lucas was fitted with a custom pair of orthopedic shoes made of neoprene and rubber with the help of Thera-Paw, an organization that designs custom products for animals with special needs, KSWB reports.
The shoes will prevent pressure sores from forming on Lucas’ feet and ankles when he stands and walks, SDZWA said. Bumblefoot could lead to sepsis and death by secondary infection if left untreated.
“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,” senior veterinarian Dr. Beth Bicknese was quoted as saying.
The goal of the footwear is to make Lucas as comfortable as possible since his bumblefoot condition is believed to be permanent, according to SDZWA. The shoes are meant to protect the lesions he already has and minimize the risk of new ones forming.
Lucas’ foot condition stemmed from a spinal infection that left the muscles in his legs weakened, causing him to rest on his ankles to compensate in order to stand upright. That led to sores forming on his feet and legs.
Since being fitted with his new footwear, Lucas’s posture has become more natural, improving his gait and his ability to navigate his rocky habitat with ease, the zoo said.
“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,” Bicknese said.