When Joao Pereira de Souza found a dying penguin on a beach near Rio de Janeiro, he immediately started to nurse him back to health. The creature, who has since been named Dindim, is a South American Magellanic penguin and he was found covered in oil. After rescuing him, Pereira de Souza spent an entire week cleaning Dindim’s tarred feathers in the shower and helped to build up his strength by feeding him fish every day. Once the penguin recovered, Pereira de Souza took him back to the beach to set him free, but something surprising happened.
“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 and every year he becomes more affectionate as he appears even happier to see me.” Biologist Joao Paulo Krajewski told The Independent, “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.”
Since 2011, Dindim swims about 3,000-5,000 miles from his habitat on the coasts of Argentina and Chile to visit Pereira de Souza. Then, he spends around eight months living with his human best friend every single year. “I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” explained 71-year-old Pereira de Souza. “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.”
Though it’s illegal for people to keep wild animals as pets in Brazil, authorities made an exception in Pereira de Souza’s case because he did the right thing by rescuing Dindim. “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,” concludes Pereira de Souza. “It’s a very special relationship.”