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SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A penguin at the San Diego Zoo got fitted with a pair of orthopedic footwear that changed his life.

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According to a news release from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a member of the African penguin colony at the zoo named Lucas, was diagnosed with a degenerative foot condition, was given the ability to live life at its fullest thanks to new custom-made orthopedic shoes.

“We were pleasantly surprised at the immediate change in Lucas after we fitted him with his new boots,” said Debbie Denton, senior wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo, in a news release. “Seeing him move about now gives us hope that he may be OK going forward, and able to live a full life.”

The shoes are made from neoprene and rubber that are able to help prevent pressure sores from developing on his feet and ankles, said the San Diego Zoo. Lucas’ condition is called bumblefoot, which is a form of avian degenerative foot condition. If it is left untreated, it can lead to sepsis or a secondary infection that could kill them.

“I’ve known Lucas for a long time, so having the ability to provide him with a chance to live a normal life brings a smile to my face,” said Dr. Beth Bicknese, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo, in a news release. “The boots are cushioned and Velcroed in place, so they will help Lucas to fully participate in the colony and showcase behaviors that are more typical for a penguin — such as climbing the rocks, swimming, nesting and finding a suitable mate.”

Lucas’ condition is unfortunately permanent, which is why the zoo worked with Thera-Paw, a national organization that designs and manufactures rehabilitative and assistive products for animals with special needs said San Diego Zoo. Thera-Paw made special boots to protect Lucas’ feet.

Once Lucas got his new boots, the zoo said he has been increasing his ability to move around his habitat with fewer issues and his posture has gotten better, allowing him to have a better standing balance.

“We were pleasantly surprised at the immediate change in Lucas after we fitted him with his new boots,” said Debbie Denton, senior wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo, in a news release. “Seeing him move about now gives us hope that he may be OK going forward, and able to live a full life.”

According to The Associated Press, Lucas’ issues began three years ago when he was just 1 year old.

The zoo said that Lucas was given pain medications, acupuncture and physical therapy to help him in the past to improve his spine, but his foot condition wasn’t going away and he started to get sores.

“This was such an amazing opportunity, and we were honored to be asked to assist the team at the San Diego Zoo,” said Ilaria Borghese, founder and president of Thera-Paw, in a news release. “Over the years, we’ve tackled challenging cases like Lucas’s, and each is special and memorable. One thing that never gets old is seeing an animal’s life dramatically improve after using one of our aids. It inspires and drives us every day.”

The AP said that African penguins have been suffering a huge decline in their population and have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.