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The Penguin Who Wears Shoes

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 1, 2024 3:00 am

The Penguin Who Wears Shoes

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 1, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, this elderly penguin named Enrique lives at the St. Louis Zoo. After being diagnosed with arthritis in his feet, the zoo began trying to find ways to make him comfortable. Marija Elden, the Zoological Manager of Birds, shares Enrique’s journey to owning a pair of pretty cool kicks.

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February 29th through March 3rd on NFL Network and streaming on NFL Plus. The manager of birds is St. Louis Zoo. She'll be speaking on behalf of Enrique, a 30-year-old penguin with arthritis who just so happens to wear shoes. Enrique is a southern rockhopper penguin and he is an elderly bird. He's about 30 years old. Penguins tend to live about 15 years old. Penguins that live in zoos live a very cushy life. He's just a gentle bird. He is really easy going. That's unlike rockhoppers a little bit. Rockhoppers are very vivacious.

Very in your face. But Enrique kind of has a softer side to him. He is quite the handsome little bird. He's got a girlfriend. And apparently as we found out this morning, another female liked what she saw.

So this morning he had two girlfriends. Enrique came to St. Louis Zoo in 2016 and he prior to that had lived at Omaha Zoo. Zoos talk to each other a lot. And before any zoo receives any animal, there is a lot of communication. What does the animal like?

What does it not like? Behaviors that are good and maybe some that are not so good. And the veterinarians also receive a lot of information about the medical history. He had signs of arthritis already at that point and so there was no surprise. We didn't just open a box of penguins and see that one wasn't feeling well.

We knew what we were getting and we were prepared and that's super important. With arthritis, you notice that they're slowing down a little bit. Maybe not coming up for food just as fast.

Maybe wait for some of the more spry neighbors to run up to the food first. And our keepers are really well versed in not only general bird behavior, but we hone in on the individuals too. So when one is feeling off a little bit, we know right away. Enrique is an active swimmer and that's great, but we couldn't have any topical creams that alleviate some of the arthritic pain.

They will kind of rinse away. So thinking outside the box can help us. I think animal people are a special group of people where very few things surprise us because we have to think outside of the box so often. With humans, an arm is an arm and a leg is a leg.

But with animals, there's so much variation. Our veterinary team, who are really great at coming up with all sorts of ideas, found a company that makes little shoes for working dogs and dogs that just need additional help after injuries. So our vets were able to connect with that company. We were able to trace Enrique's feet and get measurements and the amazing people who can sew very well made the shoes for him. The first time we put them on, he kind of looked at his feet and looked at us and then took off running. What the shoes do is just to protect his feet and give a little bit of extra padding for him. The original pair that was sent, we found that he just needed a little bit more cushion and it needed to give a little bit more grip. With rockhopper penguins, their feet are very important. They grip the rock as they're climbing up, but because we just put shoes on him, he couldn't quite grip. So we ended up receiving a second pair of shoes. Now this pair of shoes was hot pink on the bottom as opposed to the first set of shoes, which was all black, but no one cared.

A few just kind of looked. Some kind of tried to come over and check it out, but he would just tell them no. He is very vocal and he bites. So once everyone figured out, he's not going to let you mess with his shoes. He was good. He was golden. It has become such a routine for him that he really doesn't mind and it makes little difference to his mate.

So we do put them on at about 10 o'clock in the morning and take them off at about 3. His mate, Paris, she just sees them go up and he comes back and she's like, okay, this is great. Sometimes you'll see him with his wing over her, which is very cute. It is nice that he does get some time to just be a penguin.

We really take his behavior into account. We do know that it does provide him with some comfort just based on the way that he stands. We keep track on a weekly basis to make sure is he eating, is he getting around, and what we have seen is that he does swim with the boots on too, and that's an important factor for penguins. Penguins should swim, and he does still swim.

He is still social with his mate. They preen each other all the time, and as long as he is doing those things and having a good appetite, we know that he is comfortable. Since we have tried this out, our veterinarians have been in contact with a few other zoos who asked us how it went, and they considered it for some of their penguins.

So the shoes are spreading. There are a few other penguins that are getting some relief too. The opportunities to enrich the lives of our animals are endless, and it really takes a lot of innovation and collaboration to continue to provide the best care for these animals.

It is great that this story is getting out about Enrique and his shoes, but it is also such a minor thing for us. We made him comfortable, and that was our job. There are so many other things that we do for our animals that maybe are just not quite as visible but also have a big impact, and I just hope that this story helps the guests that visit St. Louis Zoo see the dedication that we put into the care for all of our animals. And beautiful production work by Madison on the piece, and a special thanks to Maria Elden, who is the zoological manager of birds at the St. Louis Zoo, and it's a world-class zoo. I spent many summers in my life in St. Louis, and that was always one of my favorite days, and I don't know many kids or adults who don't love just visiting a zoo if you get to St. Louis.

By all means, visit this terrific zoo. What a thing that Maria just said. We made him comfortable. That's our job.

Indeed, it is. Crafting a special pair of shoes for a 30-year-old arthritic penguin named Enrique. That story here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-01 04:24:27 / 2024-03-01 04:28:44 / 4

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