TODAY   |  December 11, 2011

Lucky penguin gets boot for foot

Rachel Ritchason of the Santa Barbara Zoo introduces TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe to Lucky, a special penguin fitted with a special boot to correct a limp he has had since birth that threatened his life.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

JENNA WOLFE, co-host: Now to the story of Lucky the penguin . Born with a life-threatening limp, he's now waddling like a champ thanks to a Santa Barbara zoo keepers and some ingenious yet stylish footwear from the folks at Teva . Lucky joins us along with Rachel Ritchason , assistant curator of birds and records, and Chris Hillyer , Teva product line manager. Good morning, everybody. But especially you, Lucky . But you know what? You don't really speak English that well, so we'll concentrate on the two of you. Hey, Rachel , let me start with you. You first noticed that Lucky had a problem shortly after he hatched. He walked with a little bit of a limp because of the shape of his foot. What were you thinking at that point? What challenges did the penguin face or would he face?

Ms. RACHEL RITCHASON: Well, I think the biggest challenge that we had with Lucky ...


Ms. RITCHASON: that he was putting all his weight on a joint that's not meant to bear weight, so what we were getting was a really bad infection in that joint. So that was the biggest problem; the biggest challenge was overcoming that infection. And because he had that infection it meant that he couldn't swim normally, he couldn't have access to water like a penguin really should.

WOLFE: So I understand surgery was not an option for the penguin . So you reach out to Chris at the zoo. Hey, Chris , when the zoo came to you and asked if you would design a shoe for a penguin , did you think somebody was pranking you at that point?

Mr. CHRIS HILLYER: You know we actually have worked with the zoo before but we got that call, and we had a quick huddle as a team. This is obviously a pretty irregular request. But it's funny, we quickly decided that we -- it's something that we needed to do. And we got down to the zoo and we determined -- this is what Teva does. We've been making shoes for athletes and everyday people...

WOLFE: Right.

Mr. HILLYER: ...that love to be and around the water for years.

WOLFE: But this is what I...

Mr. HILLYER: So, something we had to do and Lucky -- go ahead.

WOLFE: Yeah, this is what I found most interesting. This shoe had to be what -- waterproof, and it couldn't slip. Like tell me a couple of the prototypes you had to go through to make sure the shoe was going to fit the penguin .

Mr. HILLYER: Yeah, it was a -- it was a huge challenge. I mean, the first of all is -- we've been making shoes for years for human athletes, but making something for a penguin really led to a lot of challenges just in fit. And -- but once we got that fit right, it was really easy for us to take, you know, something like this, a Teva shoe with all the performance features, and apply it to something for a penguin .


Mr. HILLYER: And this is Lucky 's new holiday boot.

WOLFE: It's absolutely adorable. I understand you have a couple of different boots for a couple of different occasions. Rachel , real quick, how's Lucky doing? Is Lucky swimming and walking, and getting along with everybody now?

Ms. RITCHASON: Yeah. And that's the best part is this shoe really changed his life. It saved his life. You know, made it so he could go in and out of the water any time he wanted and we're able to bring up him up to the exhibit, and he just like all the other penguins.

WOLFE: Oh, it's adorable. Thank you both so much. Rachel Ritchason, and Chris Hillyer. And of course, Lucky , you didn't contribute much, but we thank you anyway for joining us. We're going to take a break. We're back right after these messages.