Ever since a 71-year-old Brazilian man rescued a struggling penguin, he's been receiving regular visits from his feathered friend.

Joao Pereira de Souza, a retired bricklayer, lives on Proveta, a fishing village just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. In 2011, he spotted a starving Magellanic penguin drenched in oil on the beach near his house. 

Naming the penguin Dindim, Pereira de Souza fed him every day until he was strong enough to leave, according to a video from the University of Rio de Janeiro. But the penguin refused to go.

Pereira de Souza decided to row a boat out into the water and drop Dindim off to encourage him to swim home.

But when he rowed back to shore, he found the penguin waiting for him at his shanty.

"He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared," Pereira de Souza told TV Globo, a Brazilian TV network.

Magellanic penguins regularly swim thousands of kilometres a year to breeding spots on the coast of Argentina and Chile. From time to time, penguins show up in warmer Brazilian waters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Many of Pereira de Souza's friends thought that when Dindim finally left, that was it for the human-bird friendship.

But a few months later, Dindim returned and found Pereira de Souza. He visits for about four months, a ritual kept for the last 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," Pereira de Souza told TV Globo.

Penguin Dindim

Dindim makes his way from Patagonia back to de Souza's beach in Proveta, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. (University of Rio de Janeiro)

De Souza appears to be the only person who can get near Dindim. If others try, he pecks them or waddles away.

"I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well," biologist Joao Paulo Krajewski said to the Independent. "When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight."

Krajewski helped report the segment for TV Globo, and said that they caught Dindim on his fifth trip out to see Pereira de Souza.

"It's really impressive, the love the two of them have," Krajewski said in the segment on the TV Globo show.


Magellanic penguins breed along the coast of Patagonia. (Wikimedia)

It's technically illegal to have a wild animal as a pet in Brazil, as officials want to ensure vulnerable creatures don't get separated from their families and that they can be reintroduced into the wild after injury. 

The Independent also reported that there's been concern over how climate change could be forcing these penguins farther north into the warmer Brazilian waters. 

It's unlikely that Dindim is going all the way back to his home territory in Patagonia, since he spends the time he'd usually be breeding and moulting with Pereira de Souza, Krajewski said in a Facebook post. 

He believes that Dindim now interprets Proveta as his home, and imprinted on the 71-year-old, whom Dindim sees as a partner. For reasons like these, most professionals try to avoid this circumstance.

"This isolated case in Brazil certainly allowed Dindim to live and was the best this humble and kind man could do for the penguin," he wrote.

"I love the penguin like it's my own child," said Pereira de Souza to Globo TV. "And I believe the penguin loves me."


  • The post originally made mention of a 8,000 km journey Dindim might have made. Joao Paulo Krajewski posted on his Facebook page that this is very unlikely. Furthermore, there is no authority that has granted Joao Pereira de Souza right to take care of Dindim.
    Mar 14, 2016 3:47 PM ET