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Elderly penguin at St. Louis Zoo gets boots for arthritic feet

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 6/22/2021 David Matthews
a penguin standing on a rock: Penguin at St. Louis Zoo. © Twitter Penguin at St. Louis Zoo.

He may not be an Emperor, but he’s got a new groove, thanks to his new shoes.

Enrique, a rockhopper penguin at the St. Louis Zoo, has become a literal hype beast after he was spotted donning a snazzy pair of boots in his habitat.

The shoes were noticed in a social media post last week by Lutheran pastor Joshua Ketelsen, who was visiting the zoo with his wife and 7-year-old daughter.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Enrique is believed to be about 30 years old. In the wild, rockhopper penguins, which are native to South America, Africa and some islands around Antarctica, have an average life expectancy of 10 years. However, recently, Enrique has been slowed down by chronic foot pain and discomfort.

After trying a number of treatments, including ointments that washed off when Enrique went in the water, the zookeepers decided some orthopedic shoes could solve Enrique’s pedal problems. After working with New Jersey-based Thera-Paw in 2020, Enrique’s black boots with red grips arrived in October and his new life started.

“He’s a pretty easygoing bird,” Dr. Jimmy Johnson, a veterinarian at the zoo, told The Dispatch. “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. I guess he didn’t mind.”

The dapper bird hasn’t needed medication for his arthritis since he started wearing the boots.

“He’s swimming more than he used to, he’s climbing higher on the rocks than he used to,” Johnson said.

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