Lucas the penguin now has a case of happy feet.
The four-year-old penguin had been coping with a case of bumblefoot, an infection in some animals that causes their feet to become swollen and develop painful lesions. As a result, the other penguins at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park didn’t want to hang out with him, leaving Lucas feeling left out.
Enter Thera-Paw, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in boots and other protective footwear for animals.
Zookeepers had Lucas walk across sand to create an impression, then created molds of his feet.
From there, Thera-Paw’s team created a special pair of orthopedic boots for Lucas, made of Neoprene and rubber with extra padding on the bottoms. The black shade looks as close to his natural foot color as possible so as not to stand out too much.
And the mission was a success. Zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo put Lucas’ new boots on him and he immediately began trying them out.
Now, report the keepers, he’s waddling along and is able to keep up with – and, more importantly, socialize with – the other penguins.
In fact, it’s going even better than expected – Lucas already has a girlfriend.
The San Diego Zoo is the largest zoo in California. And it turns out that Lucas isn’t the first animal there who has ever needed help walking.
Earlier this year, Msituni, a three-month-old giraffe, was fitted with custom-made leg braces to correct a birth defect that resulted in not being able to walk.
The special giraffe-print braces did the job and eventually were removed once she was capable of walking – and leaping – on her own.