2:14 PM PDT, June 22, 2021
Enrique, a 30-year-old southern rockhopper penguin from the Saint Louis Zoo has been dealing with some arthritis in his feet over the last year, but now he’s able to hop, skip and jump like a kid again thanks to his new snazzy therapeutic support boots.
“The therapeutic support boots, similar to orthopedic insoles for humans, provide cushioning for Enrique’s feet and joints and protection for the calluses on the bottoms of his feet, which he developed due to arthritis in his advanced age,” Saint Louis Zoo staff veterinarian Dr. Jimmy Johnson told Inside Edition Digital.
The cushioned, custom shoes for Enrique’s webbed feet were made by New Jersey company Thera-Paw, which develops splints, braces, protective garments, and mobility aids for animals with special needs, according to its website, People reported.
Enrique and his snazzy boots became the talk of the zoo when a random visitor spotted the boots and asked the zookeeper about it, then shared it on Facebook, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
According to veterinarians at the zoo, Enrique developed larger, thicker calluses at the bottom of his feet, which they explained can happen with arthritis. The medicated creams, sprays, and lotions they were using were not helping Enrique since they would wash off in the water.
“We started thinking out of the box,” said Johnson, who told the Dispatch that he and the staff are always finding creative ways to accommodate the animals’ needs. For instance, paper clips have been used for leg splints for a small bird that may weigh 20 or 30 grams.
Enrique has lived at the zoo since 2016, and estimated to be more than 30 years old. However, he has exceeded the median life expectancy, which is around 10 years of age, and seems to be keeping up with his younger counterparts just fine.
“We’re dedicated to providing the best possible care for the animals at the Saint Louis Zoo, including our geriatric animals,” Johnson said.
Since Enrique’s been wearing the boots, “he’s like a new penguin — he’s walking, swimming, and climbing more than he used to.”
Johnson added: “They really helped out his mobility, comfort, and quality of life. He has adapted very well to the boots and really doesn’t seem to mind them at all.”