L ucky the Humboldt penguin is famous for wearing a one-of-a-kind Teva shoe. While this shoe has helped Lucky walk, jump, and swim like the other penguins for the past 8 years, his foot condition has increasingly deteriorated over recent months.

On Friday, October 19, Lucky underwent surgery with a specialized vet team to have his foot amputated, which we expect to significantly reduce his current pain and discomfort.

Lucky’s need for this surgery stemmed from the deterioration of a malformed ankle joint, which caused his right foot to point up at an angle, rather than lay flat. This caused Lucky to walk on the point of his ankle, rather than on his foot. The abnormality was discovered as soon as Lucky left the nest in 2010 and walked with a shuffling gait. He was unable to walk properly and began to develop life-threatening infections from pressure and chafing.

Lucky’s prognosis is good, according to Director of Animal Care and Health Dr. Julie Barnes, who assisted on the surgery conducted by Dr. Stephen Klause, a veterinary orthopedic specialist from the Los Angeles Zoo. Dr. Klause has consulted with Dr. Barnes on Lucky’s condition for several years and has a lot of surgical experience with birds.

November 9, 2018: Lucky, the Zoo’s eight-year-old Humboldt penguin, continues to recover incredibly well since his foot surgery on October 19. He is still living in the Zoo’s Animal Hospital but has been walking, swimming, and keeping company with his mate Nica and other members of the penguin colony. Lucky had his stitches taken out today, but staff will continue to monitor the healing of his wound moving forward.

While Lucky’s one-of-a-kind Teva shoe helped him live his life like the other penguins in the colony, his foot condition had continued deteriorating over the years, causing him increased pain and discomfort. In order to give him the best quality of life possible, surgeons performed a procedure on Lucky to remove his right foot. So far, he has handled this transition like the champ he’s always been!

Lucky will continue to recover in the Animal Hospital with his mate, Nica, under the care of the Zoo’s vet staff and bird team. Once he is healed, the Zoo will once again work with Teva to create a new protective cover or shoe, and get him back out with the colony as soon as possible.

As with all of our animals here at the Santa Barbara Zoo, Lucky’s well-being is our number one priority. We will provide updates on his progress and recovery here and on Facebook.


We feel he has a good prognosis and this procedure will give him 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.

Dr. Julie BarnesDirector of Animal Care & Health

X-ray image of Lucky’s ankle. 

Zookeeper Ashley Darling holds Lucky following surgery. 

Julia McHugh

About Julia McHugh

Julia McHugh, APR, is the Zoo's Director of Public Relations.

500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103