This has got to be one of the most heartwarming wildlife stories we’ve published on ADAPT.
This awesome little South American Magellanic penguin swims 5,000 miles, to a beach in Brazil, every year in order to be reunited with the man who saved its life! It sounds like something out of a fairytale, but it’s actually true.
71-year-old retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, found the small Magellanic penguin lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011.
The penguin was covered in oil and running out of time fast. Joao rescued the penguin, naming him Dindim, cleaned the oil off its feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to rebuild its strength.
After a week of rehabilitation, Joao attempted to release the penguin back into the wild. However, Dindim had already formed a family bond with his rescuer and wouldn’t leave. “He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” Joao recalls.
The little guy wasn’t gone long though and just a few months later, he was back at the same beach. He spotted Joao fishing and followed him home, staying with him for the rest of the year.
Amazingly, this cycle has continued over the past five years; each year Dindim spends approximately eight months with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile.
It’s thought he swims up to 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life. It just goes to show how incredibly complex these animals are—they clearly experience a range of emotions in the same way we do.
“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” Joao told Globo TV. “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.
“Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me for the past five 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.”
Professor Krajewski, a biologist who interviewed the fisherman for Globo TV, 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.”
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