It’s incredible the relationships humans and animals can build, especially when one rescues the other. That’s exactly what happened when this man saved a penguin. Their bond is stronger than ever and they see each other once a year.
No Penguins Allowed
Joao Pereira de Souza is a 71-year-old man living in Brazil, a country that has strict laws against owning wild animals. Joao was determined to keep his wild penguin as a pet, so he found a loophole in the law.
Finding the Penguin
Joao found the South American Magellanic penguin in trouble on the beach. He was covered in oil and starving.
He couldn’t just watch the little penguin suffer, so he brought him home and nursed him back to health. Joao washed off the oil and made sure the penguin was fed. He named him Dindim.
Back to the Wild
Joao released Dindim back to the wild when he was healthy again. The little penguin was timid at first. He didn’t want to leave his rescuer.
The two friends met back in 2011. Ever since then, the penguin loyally comes and visits Joao as a “thank you” for saving his life. Where does Dindim travel from each year? His kind of penguin breed on the coasts of Chile and Argentina, almost 5,000 miles away from Brazil.
Dindim comes once a year to spend time with Joao. One time he spent eight months in Brazil before returning home to his penguin family.
Joao has said, “I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me.”
The little bird is protective of Joao. “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,” Joao said.
Joao believes that they formed their close bond when he took care of him at home, washing off the oil and nursing him back to health.
It’s never clear how long Dindim will stay when he visits. “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,” Joao recalled.
Once a Year
Joao said, “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 says, “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.”
Penguins are naturally loyal creatures. They are one of the few animals that have monogamous relationships that last their lifespan.
No Penguins in Brazil
It’s rare for penguins to reach the beaches of Brazil. Penguins will typically migrate up north in search of food.
Oceanographer, David Zee said, “Every year the strong ocean currents from the Falkland region traps and brings many species of seals, whales, dolphins, turtles, and penguins to the Brazilian coast.” Climate change may be the reason more animals are drifting north.
Zee goes on, “This is becoming more problematic due to environmental change and the increasing frequency of el Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean is warming up for prolonged periods of time. The marine creatures get confused and lost as they are dragged away on the surf from their normal habitat and end up in areas where they are unable to survive.”
Penguins have to look out for more than just climate change. “Increased danger with the ongoing contamination of the oceans with oil and other derivatives” is something marine animals must deal with.
Dindim was very lucky that Joao found him and decided to take care of him.
Avoid Human Contact
Krajewski says, “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.”
Joao said, “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-on-one time with me.” The two friends are overjoyed that they have found each other.