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A Humboldt penguin named Lucky at the Santa Barbara Zoo underwent surgery Friday morning to remove his right foot, and doctors say his prognosis is good.
The procedure was performed by Director of Animal Care and Health Dr. Julie Barnes and Dr. Stephen Klause, a veterinary orthopedic specialist from the Los Angeles Zoo.
Barnes said it was “a fairly straightforward surgery” that is used for cats and dogs with similar conditions, which they hope will provide Lucky with the best quality of life.
“Our goals are to lessen Lucky’s pain, retain his mobility, and have him rejoin the zoo’s Humboldt penguin colony,” Barnes said in a news release.
When Lucky was born in 2010, zoo officials discovered he had a malformed ankle joint, which caused his right foot to point up and at an angle, rather than lay flat.
This caused Lucky to walk on the point of his ankle instead of on his foot.
Lucky was unable to walk properly and began developing life-threatening infections from pressure and chafing, the zoo said.
But in 2011, local shoe company Teva stepped in.
Teva designed a high-tech shoe for Lucky, and has since further refined and provided custom shoes for the penguin, free of charge.
The specialized footwear has allowed Lucky to be an active member of the zoo’s penguin colony for the past eight years. He even sired a chick with his mate, Nica, in 2017.
However, Lucky’s ankle joint continued to deteriorate, causing painful bone-to-bone contact.
The zoo said bouts of swelling had become more frequent despite treatment, and Lucky was spending more time in the Animal Hospital because of flare-ups and signs of discomfort.
“Lucky’s condition had reached a critical stage as it was difficult to manage his pain effectively,” Barnes said.
Lucky will recover from surgery in the Animal Hospital for several weeks, accompanied by his mate, Nica.
Once he is healed, Teva will begin developing a new shoe for Lucky.