Elderly penguin receives personalized arthritis footwear at Missouri Zoo

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – A penguin at the Saint-Louis Zoo wearing specially designed shoes is a rare sight – so it’s no surprise that a visitor Facebook post on shoes garnered over 9,000 likes.

The St. Louis Zoo says the therapeutic support boots are helping.

(Kimberley Washington / Saint-Louis Zoo)

Enrique, a jumping penguin native to the southern tips of South America and Africa and some islands around Antarctica, developed arthritis in his old age, the St. Louis Post-Expedition reports. He has lived at the zoo since 2016 and is estimated to be over 30 years old. The median life expectancy in the wild is around 10 years, according to zoo veterinarian Dr Jimmy Johnson.

“We always say that his longevity is a credit to the zoo which continues to provide him with great care and expert breeding,” Johnson told Post-Dispatch. “We are lucky to have him with us for so long.

“We started to think outside the box,” Johnson told The Post, “and that’s where the boots come in.”

Johnson told the Post-Dispatch he had seen swans with related types of foot problems that had similar boots made for them. A penguin with a molting problem was also given a bespoke wetsuit so he wouldn’t get too cold while swimming.

Zoo officials contacted a New Jersey company that makes boots for dogs and cats, called Thera-Patte, to create a pair of padded rubber for Enrique. The first prototype pair was received in September and after some adjustments a new pair was received a month later.

The strappy shoes are black with red handles at the bottom. The staff put them on Enrique in the morning and take them off at night before he goes to bed.

Since wearing the boots, zoo officials have said Enrique doesn’t need much more medicine for his feet and moves fairly quickly, the Post-Dispatch reports.



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