Friday, July 20 , 2018, 11:58 pm | Fair 65º


Local News

‘Lucky’ Santa Barbara Zoo Penguin Gets Happy Feet with New Boot

Shoe company Teva creates a custom protective boot to cushion the animal's impaired webbed foot

Santa Barbara Zoo bird keeper Rachel Miller holds Lucky the penguin, fitted with a protective boot created by Teva for his disabled foot.
Santa Barbara Zoo bird keeper Rachel Miller holds Lucky the penguin, fitted with a protective boot created by Teva for his disabled foot. (Chuck Graham / Noozhawk photo)

There are 18 Humboldt penguins at the Santa Barbara Zoo, but only one of them is named Lucky — and for good reason.

He was born in a nest box on April 15, 2010, but after initial checkups with the zoo veterinarian, the seabird appeared hobbled by an impaired foot. Another examination and X-rays revealed no broken bones but did conclude that the gregarious penguin’s webbed foot wasn’t developing correctly.

“It’s not uncommon for chicks of any bird species to develop splayed legs as a result of being under their parents,” said bird keeper Rachel Miller, who cares for Lucky. “They usually respond to treatment, but Lucky didn’t.”

At 2 months old, Lucky developed sores while putting pressure on the wrong parts of his webbed foot, and treatment wasn’t curing the troubled foot.

Miller said they remembered that an elephant with a foot problem at the San Antonio Zoo was fitted with a protective boot created by adventure shoe company Teva.

“We thought if they can make a big elephant boot, then they may be able to make a little penguin one,” Miller said.

Not only did the shoe have to cushion Lucky’s foot, it had to be lightweight, provide traction, repel water and — above all — it had to be comfortable. Teva has committed to providing boots for Lucky for his entire lifespan.

Now he is able to congregate and socialize with the other 17 Humboldt penguins, whether it’s on land or torpedoing through the water.

Noozhawk contributor and local freelance writer Chuck Graham is editor of Deep magazine.

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