In Brief

Loyal penguin swims 5,000 miles to human friend each year

Patagonian bird keeps returning to visit the Brazilian fisherman who saved his life

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"92128","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]A penguin from Patagonia is said to have swam 5,000 miles every year since 2011 to visit to the Brazilian fisherman who saved its life.

Retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, found the starving penguin, who he has named Dindim, covered in oil and lying among the rocks on his local beach four years ago.

After cleaning the bird and feeding him a daily diet of fish, the 71-year-old attempted to release the penguin back into the wild.

However, the bird wouldn't leave and stayed with his new friend for 11 months before eventually disappearing into the ocean.

After a few months, Dindim returned to the beach, spotted the Brazilian on the sand and followed him home once more.

Since then, the penguin, which normally breeds on the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile, up to 5,000 miles away, swims back to spend up to eight months a year with the retired bricklayer.

"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," Pereira de Souza told Globo TV.

"I love the penguin like it's my own child and I believe the penguin loves me," he added. "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 Joao Paulo Krajewski, who interviewed Pereira de Souza for Globo TV, 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."

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