When you visit the zoo, you can see many interesting and unusual animal behaviors. But visitors to the St. Louis Zoo’s penguin exhibit have noticed a sight that seems to be out of a kids’ book: a penguin wearing shoes!
A photo posted by Joshua Ketelsen went viral on Facebook. He recalled being a bit confused by why a penguin would need shoes, and asked a zookeeper.
The explanation turned out to be heartwarming: the southern rockhopper penguin, named Enrique, is old and experiences “the penguin equivalent of arthritis,” Joshua explained.
But the zookeepers can use cream to effectively reduce the pain in his feet, helping to keep him going. They made tiny custom shoes to keep the cream in.
“We started thinking outside the box, and that’s where the boots come in,” staff veterinarian Dr. Jimmy Johnson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The “R” seen on the shoe is to designate that it’s the right foot — something to help the zookeepers put his shoes on.
Enrique is very old for a penguin of his species. He’s estimated to be 30, three times the life expectancy in the wild.
But his friends at the zoo, who have had him in their care since 2016, are clearly going the extra mile to make sure he’s still doing well in old age.
“We always say his longevity is a credit to the zoo continuing to provide him with great care and expert husbandry,” Johnson said. “We’re lucky to have had him with us for such a long time.”
Enrique also doesn’t seem to mind his new kicks — and it’s helped him get back to his old self again. “He’s a pretty easygoing bird,” Johnson told the Post-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.”
“He’s swimming more than he used to, he’s climbing higher on the rocks than he used to.”
What a great idea! Thanks to this zoo for looking out for this old penguin. Hope Enrique keeps going for years to come!