Does this Penguin Swim 5,000 Miles Every Year to Reunite with the Man who Saved its Life?

A unique friendship between a man and a penguin

Joao and Dindim swimming

It was 2011, the retired bricklayer Joao Pereira de Souza was minding his own business when he found something strange in his backyard at Proveta Beach in Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. When he approached it, Joao realized it was a penguin, completely covered in oil spill and unable to move. The 71-year-old mason immediately took the poor, starving animal inside and washed the oil off of its body. It took the man a whole week to completely remove all the black residue from the bird’s feathers. For the following several days, Joao took good care of the penguin, feeding it sardines and making sure it was recovering from the trauma.

Dindim and Joao
The unusual friendship between a penguin and a human – Dindim and Joao

Joao’s 2-year-old grandson loved the penguin, but couldn’t pronounce the word correctly, so was born the name of the animal – Dindim!

The compassionate man nursed the animal back to health. Once the penguin seemed strong enough, Pereira de Souza took him to a nearby island and released the flightless bird into the sea. After an emotional goodbye, the old man returned to his home, never expecting to see his new friend again. But Dindim, the penguin, had other plans! Later that day, Pereira de Souza heard the familiar squeaking in his backyard, little did he know, it was Dindim calling out for him.

Joao and Dindim at the beach
Joao and Dindim often take walks on the beach and play together

As it seemed, the penguin wasn’t ready to part with his human friend just yet. Dindim became a resident of Pereira de Souza’s backyard for almost a full year. Both Joao and his grandson grew attached to the lovable creature, and enjoyed having this little guest in their backyard. It was February, 2012, when Dindim changed his coat for new feathers, and then simply disappeared one day. Without a trace, the penguin was gone, much the same way he first appeared in Pereira de Souza’s backyard. And this time, the old man and his grandson didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.

Joao and Dindim 2
Joao believes the love and friendship are mutual

Everyone thought this was the last they’d see of Dindim, but they were wrong. June came along, and once again, the familiar squeak came from Joao’s backyard, the penguin was back and calling for his friend. After an emotional reunion, the loyal animal stayed again until the following February. This amazing reunion now occurs each year! The penguin returns around June, and once welcomed by his friend, stays there until mid-February.

For 5 years now, Dindim keeps coming back Every summer to his human friend and savior!

At first, it was believed, and fairly misreported, that the penguin would swim to Patagonia and back, covering more than 5,000 miles every year! But contrary to numerous reports, João Paulo Krajewski, a biologist who filmed the original news report, clearly stated that Dindim does not swim 5,000 miles every year. According to the scientist, Magellanic Penguins are very loyal to their pair and breeding site, where they usually spend the summer, tending to come back to the same place every year. However, even though no one can say with certainty where the penguin goes after swimming off into the sea, it is very unlikely Dindim swims to Patagonia and other islands down south, this location being the popular breeding ground for his kind.

Dindim and Joao hugging
The loyal penguin allows only his savior to pet him

Krajewski also added that many penguins are found sick in the coast of Brazil due to the terrible habit of humans to trash the environment. But in the end, he also confirmed that the heartwarming story of Dindim and Mr Joao is true, penguins may live over 25 years and usually mate with the same individual in the same nest each year. The location, safety and partner fidelity he developed with Mr Joao and his backyard obviously facilitated the development of his desire to return again and again.

Joao and Dindim
Year after year, Dindim returns to enjoy the summer with Joao

Whether the penguin really swims 5,000 miles each year or not is unimportant in the end. Dindim faithfully returns to Joao every year, and while they’re spending time together, the two friends like to take a walk down the beach, or sometimes Joao would walk while Dindim swims alongside him. Joao says that he loves the penguin like it was his own child, and he believes the penguin loves him as well. In fact, only Joao is allowed to pet him, Dindim would peck anyone else who tries to touch him. 5 years on, the penguin returns to his human friend and savior, and it appears this is a friendship for lifetime.

Images sourced from:; TVGlobo;; KTLA


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