A Penguin Swims 5,000 Miles Every Year to See the Man Who Saved Its Life

Washing up ashore and being saved by a local fisherman sounds like something out of a Disney movie, but for one penguin, it’s reality. And, he’s so grateful that he goes back to visit his rescuer every year!

Almost ten years ago, a Brazilian fisherman spotted a penguin near his boat, lying on the rocks in front of his island village home, covered in oil and almost dead. The 71-year-old man, Joao Pereira de Souza, took it upon himself to clean the bird up, name him Dindim, and give him some food so the penguin wouldn’t starve to death.

Like any of us would, he found himself quite attached to the bird—and Dindim felt the same about Pereira de Souza, who had taken him home, fed him fresh fish and cleaned him in his own home’s shower. Once the bird seemed to be on the road to recovery, Pereira de Souza took him back to the water, fully intending to release him into the wild—but Dindim had other plans. The Patagonian penguin absolutely refused to leave the man who rescued him.

For 11 months, Dindim stayed by Pereira de Souza’s side, who had never quite seen anything like this. This particular kind of penguin (which has been deemed Near Threatened by the IUCN) typically breeds off the coast of Chile, Argentina and the Falkland islands, which are much colder than the coast of Brazil. But it’s not totally unheard of for them to show up in Brazil and Peru, according to HuffPost and the Aquarium of the Pacific, and Pereira de Souza is glad Dindim did!

“[H]e stayed with me for 11 months and then just after he changed his coat with new feathers he disappeared. Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me,” said Pereira de Souza, who found himself delighted to be reunited with his small feathered companion.

Each year, he visits for up to two weeks, then hops back into the water and is on his way. Dindim isn’t there for the rest of the village’s attention, either; Pereira de Souza says that while the little penguin will waddle up to him and lay in his lap, the penguin will peck at others. Maybe it’s because Pereira de Souza gives Dindim a diet of fresh sardines and lets the bird use his very own shower—not a bad life for anyone, let alone a once-starving penguin.

Oddly enough, although the South American Magellanic penguins typically migrate in flocks when hunting for food, Dindim’s visit is a solo affair. Perhaps the fact that these penguins mate for life, waiting to reconnect year after year, explains Dindim’s loyalty to Pereira de Souza, as well as the sardines and shower that saved him.

The story has a tinge of sadness, however. Every year, up to 42,000 South American Magellanic penguins are killed by oil spills. So while it’s a blessing that Pereira de Souza saved Dindim, the planet on the whole has a way to go.

Abhishek Chauhan

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