In 2011, a Brazilian man found a Magellanic penguin dripping with oil and starving by his home on an island near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After cleaning him up and feeding him back to strength, an inseparable friendship was born.
When Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, let the penguin back into the sea, he thought their paths had strayed for good. However, to his surprise, the penguin returned to the island a few months later and followed him back to his home.
Every year since, the penguin spends eight months of the year on the Brazilian island with his new companion, only returning to the Patagonian coast in southern Chile and Brazil to breed in spring. It’s reported by the Wall Street Journal that this journey is around 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles).
De Souza, a retired bricklayer, has named his new pal JinJing.
“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” de Souza told 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.”
According to the IUCN Red List, the Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) is categorized as near threatened species. While it’s not unheard of for the penguins to migrate up to Brazil, there are few reports of individuals heading as far north as Rio de Janeiro in normal circumstances.
Mario Castro, a local fisherman, told the Wall Street Journal: “The funniest thing is, the penguin might stay here for a week, then it will walk down to the beach and leaves. It spends 10, 12 or 15 days, then comes back to the same house,”
Speaking to The Independent, biologist Joao Paulo Krajewski, who interviewed de Souza for Globo TV, said: “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.”