An elderly penguin who has lived decades longer than most of his species is enjoying a pair of special boots he was given to help him walk despite his arthritis.
Enrique, who zookeepers estimate is around 30 years old, was recently fitted with the fancy new footwear to help with the pain of his calluses and bad joints.
The rockhopper has gone far past the median life expectancy of 10 years for penguins in the wild.
Despite being what caretakers at the St Louis Zoo in Missouri, US describe as an “easygoing bird”, he’s started to struggle with health problems in recent years.
Zookeepers began having to apply topical creams and sprays to his sore spots – but these would wash off whenever he went for a swim, reports the Post-Dispatch.
“We started thinking outside the box,” zoo veterinarian Dr. Jimmy Johnson told the Post-Dispatch . “And that’s where the boots come in.”
Staff at the zoo teamed up with Thera-Paw, a company known for making dog boots, to design the gear.
The boots feature plenty of cushioning to help Enrique move around – and he’s been swimming and climbing more ever since he got them.
The footwear was even made camouflage black to blend in with Enrique’s natural coat – so he doesn’t need to worry about sticking out among his fellow flappers.
He wears the boots in his habitat during the day before zookeepers take them off his feet before he goes to sleep at night.
“He’s a pretty easygoing bird,” said 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.”
“He’s swimming more than he used to, he’s climbing higher on the rocks than he used to,” Johnson told the Post-Dispatch. “I guess he didn’t mind.”