Way back in 2011, Joao Pereira de Souza, part-time fisherman and a bricklayer had found a small penguin lying at the local beach. This 71 years old man lives in an island village situated out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and that is where he found the Magellanic penguin covered in oil.
Joao knew that the penguin did not have much longer in that condition and immediately started to clean him. After rescuing him, Joao named him Din Din and took care of him for over a week. After getting proper care and nutritious food, Din Din recovered quickly and it was time for the duo to part ways.
But even in this short period, the Magellanic penguin had formed a deep bond with his caretaker. When Joao tried to release him into the wild, Din Din could not leave his human dad behind.
Joao remembers, “He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared.”
Though abrupt, the separation was a short-lived one. Din Din returned after a few months to meet his dad. He had swum a great distance and spotted his human dad fishing. He promptly followed Joao home and they spent the rest of the year together.
The Magellanic penguin has been repeating this routine for many years now. It is believed that Din Din spends a few months on the Patagonian coasts of South America and then returns to spend about 8 months with Joao in Rio de Janeiro.
In an interview with Globo TV, Joao said, “I love the penguin like it’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.”
“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, the biologist who had interviewed Joao, 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.”
In Brazil, it is illegal to have wild animals like penguins as pets. But Din Din and Joao have been a happy exception.
Professor Krajewski explained: “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 Din Din to stay with Joao because of his kindness.”
Although climate change is resulting in multitudes of problems, especially for migratory animals, this Magellanic penguin’s dedication to reach his human dad shows the depth of the bond the duo shares. We hope this kind man inspires us all to be more kind to all the animals around us.
Images: University of Rio de Janeiro