Dindim — a South American Magellanic penguin — swims over 8,000km every year to meet his human friend Joao Pereira de Souza — a 71-year-old retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman living on an island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pereira de Souza rescued Dindim when he washed up on the shore in 2011, starving and covered in oil.
Pereira de Souza cleaned Dindim’s tarred feathers for over a week and nursed him back to health by feeding him fish to help him regain his strength. He then took him to the sea to release him so that the penguin could migrate back to his habitat. “But he wouldn’t leave. He stayed with me for 11 months and then just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” Pereira de Souza told Globo TV. “Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me for the past four years. He arrives in June and leaves to go home in February,” he explains. South American Magellanic penguins usually breed in the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile — 4,000-8,000km away.
Biologist Joao Paulo Krajewski — who interviewed Pereira de Souza for Globo TV — told The Independent, “Professionals who work with animals try to avoid relationships like this occurring so they are able to reintroduce the animal into the wild. But in this isolated case the authorities allowed Dindim to stay with Joao because of his kindness.”
He added, “I have never seen anything like this before. I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well. When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.” Indeed, Pereira de Souza said, “No one else is allowed to touch him. He pecks them if they do. He lays on my lap, lets me give him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and to pick him up.”
“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me. I’m flattered Dindim is happy to exchange his home with thousands of other penguins every year to find his way here to spend one-to-one time with me,” he reflects. “It’s a very special relationship.”