If the shoe fits: lucky penguin receives life-saving new boots

Lucas the African penguin suffers from degenerative condition causing painful lesions on feet

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A penguin in California has received a special pair of new shoes that have not only saved his life but also go quite nicely with his ever-present tuxedo.

Lucas, a four-year-old African penguin living at the San Diego Zoo, was recently fitted with a pair of prosthetic boots to help him deal with a debilitating disease called bumblefoot.

The degenerative condition causes painful lesions that, if left untreated, can lead to infection and death.

After Lucas was diagnosed, the zoo’s wildlife care specialists turned to an organisation called Thera-Paw, which creates rehabilitative and assistive products for animals with special needs, AP reported.

The organisation designed shoes for Lucas containing neoprene and rubber that will minimise pressure on his feet and keep him from developing lesions.

“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,” the zoo's senior veterinary surgeon Beth Bickense told UPI.

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“The boots are cushioned and Velcroed in place, so they will help Lucas to fully participate in the colony and showcase behaviours that are more typical for a penguin — such as climbing the rocks, swimming, nesting and finding a suitable mate.”

Zoo officials told KFMB-TV that, following Lucas being fitted with the boots, his posture and gait improved, allowing him to maintain his balance better and move around his habitat more easily.

He will also be able to take up tap dancing, should he be so inclined.

But all is not so rosy for other African penguins: the population of the animals in the wild has declined by as much as 95 per cent since the pre-industrial era.

Poaching, pollution and human encroachment into their native habitat have pushed the penguins on to the endangered species list.

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Updated: August 30, 2022, 11:58 PM
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