CINCINNATI (WKRC) - An African Penguin at the Cincinnati Zoo is walking better because of shoes designed to help with her unique foot condition.
Larkin, named after former Reds star Barry Larkin, is a seven-month-old penguin with mobility issues.
“We noticed that Larkin was having trouble walking. It was very odd because sometimes she walked normally but other times it was difficult,” said Rickey Kinley, head keeper of birds at the Cincinnati Zoo. “During the initial medical consultation, one of our veterinarians, Dr. Nollman, created the first version of a boot from a material that when heated could be fitted to the exact imprint of the penguin foot. This boot is helping quite a bit, but there are a few issues with the shape and the way that it is secured to the foot.”
By using 3D printing, the Cincinnati Zoo's enrichment team designed custom-made shoes that it hopes will keep Larkin's tendon from moving out of place.
"Our primary goal is always the well-being of the animals in our care. In this instance, 3D printing technology is providing us with a unique opportunity to address a specific health concern in an innovative and effective way," said Dr. Mike Wenninger, director of animal health at the Cincinnati Zoo.
“For now, the shoes’ only purpose is to provide corrective support,” said Kinley. “If she continues to need them, we may put more effort into making them stylish.”
Larkin can be seen at the Cincinnati Zoo's African Penguin Point.
Temperatures must be above freezing for her and the other African Penguins to go outside because they are warm weather penguins.