A southern rockhopper penguin at the St. Louis Zoo is getting back on his feet thanks to some kindhearted zoo employees and their creative thinking. Enrique the penguin is estimated to be around 30 years old. He was outfitted with a pair of custom, well-cushioned shoes to help him adjust to his newfound arthritis pain. After coming to the St. Louis location only 5 years ago, the elderly penguin's joint pain has slowly declined over time.
Despite having a life expectancy of 10 years, this 30-year-old bird is pushing the boundaries. As a result, his caretakers have had to think pretty outside the box when it came to his care. Working with dog boot company Thera-Paw, they were able to make some special socks for their flightless friend.
"He's a pretty easygoing bird," said zoo veterinarian Dr. Jimmy Johnson. "We put the shoes on and set him on the ground to see what would happen. Initially, he took some big steps, and then he took off."
Despite some growing calluses and increased pain, the bird hasn't slowed down much at all. Zookeepers report he is still swimming and climbing as much as he was before, maybe even more. Nothing can keep this bird down (aside from gravity!). Even with numerous setbacks, this bird is still flying high.
"He's swimming more than he used to, he's climbing higher on the rocks than he used to," said his vet. "I guess he didn't mind."