Four years ago Joao Pereira de Souza, of Brazil, sparked an unlikely friendship with a South American Magellanic penguin who was covered in oil.
Upon finding the penguin distressed and starving on an island beach off Rio de Janeiro in 2011, Mr de Souza, 71, cleaned him and fed him until he was well enough to return to the ocean.
He also gave the penguin a name – Dindim.
As it turns out, Dindim didn’t want to return to the ocean.
“He wouldn’t leave, he stayed with me for 11 months and then just after he changed his coat with new feathers he disappeared,” Mr de Souza 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.”
He now spends eight months of each year with Mr de Souza. It’s believed the absent remaining four months of the year are spent breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile.
“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” Mr de Souza said in an interview with Globo Tv.
“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.”
Biologist Professor Krajewski, who interviewed Mr de Souza, said he had never encountered a relationship as unique.
“I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well,” he told The Independent.
“When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”