SAN DIEGO — A penguin at the San Diego Zoo wears custom footwear after being diagnosed with a degenerative foot condition.
“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.”
The San Diego Wildlife Alliance said Lucas suffers from a chronic condition called bumblefoot, so recently, he was fitted with orthopedic shoes.
The group said the shoes were made possible with the help of Thera-Paw, an organization that designs and manufactures products for animals with special needs.
The shoes are made of neoprene and rubber, preventing pressure sores from developing on the 4-year-old penguin’s feet and ankle when he stands and walks.
"The boots should protect the lesions already present on his feet while minimizing the risk of him developing additional sores," the group said in a news release.
The group said if left untreated, the condition could lead to sepsis and death by secondary infection.
According to the news release, Lucas' problems began more than three years ago after he developed a spinal infection.
As he recovered, the group said he had to rest on areas of his ankles that would not usually touch the ground.
With sores forming on his foot and legs, the group reached out to Thera-Paw for help, the group said.
According to the group, African penguins are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature after declining in population from an estimated 1 million to about 18,000 breeding pairs today.