The two newest members of the Department of Unexpected Interspecies Friendship are an extraordinary pair, one a human and one a penguin, who’ve been friends for years. Back in 2011 a retired Brazilian bricklayer named Joao Pereira de Souza discovered a Magellanic penguin, covered in oil and severely malnourish, lying stranded on the beach near his home in Rio de Janeiro. De Souza carried the stricken penguin back to his house where he cleaned all the oil off his feathers and nursed him back to health.
He named the penguin Dindim who, after a week of receiving de Souza’s care and a steady diet of fish, was restored to health and ready to be released. So de Souza took him back to the beach where he’d first found him. But that’s only the beginning of their story, because Dindim wasn’t ready to go yet:
“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,” recalled Mr Pereira de Souza. “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.”
When Dindim leaves de Souza, he’s headed for his breeding grounds located down on tip of South America, along the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile. He swims anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 miles to reach his breeding grounds and then swims all the way back to spend 8 months of the year with his human friend.
De Souza says, “I love the penguin like he’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me. 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.”
Prepare to squee as you watch this video of de Souza and Dindim together: