By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
The most heartwarming story of 2016 so far, comes from a beach in Brazil. A South American Magellanic penguin who swims 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.
Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, found the tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, on his local beach in 2011.
He cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.
Joao tried to release the penguin back into the sea. But, the bird wouldn’t leave. ‘He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,’ Joao recalls.
Just a few months later, Dindim was back. He spotted Joao on the beach and followed him home.
For the past five years, Dindim has spent eight months of the year with Joao and spends the rest of the time breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile.
It’s thought he swims up to 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.
I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,’ Joao said. ‘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 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.”