Typically, when Canadians think of penguins, we imagine the cold-weather birds waddling across snowy glaciers and sliding on the ice in their tuxedos. We don’t picture them lounging on a sunny seaside beach. But that’s what Dindim does, eight months of the year, on an island near Rio de Janeiro.
Dindim is a Magellanic penguin, a South American species. Actually, Dindim almost became an ex-penguin in 2011 when a coating of oil prevented him from eating properly. Luckily, he was discovered by Joao Pereira de Souza, a retired Brazilian bricklayer, who brought him home to his beachside shanty in Proveta and cleaned and fed him (and named him). And kind of fell hard for the feathery little fellow.
When Dindim had recovered his strength, Joao was prepared to release him back into the ocean. But Dindim refused to go, preferring to hang around for a while longer. It was almost a year later when the penguin finally left – only to come back a few months later. And every year since then, Dindim has been returning to catch up with his old pal Joao – who, as far as Dindim is concerned, is just a large, suntanned Magellanic penguin with most of his feathers inexplicably missing.
Joao tells reporters he loves Dindim like a son. He likes to feed him sardines as the bird cuddles in Joao’s lap. No other human can get close to the penguin. “I have never seen anything like this before,” a Brazilian biologist says in an Independent article. “When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”
If it weren’t for Joao’s care, Dindim surely wouldn’t have survived. I don’t speak penguin, but I think Dindim’s delighted honks roughly translate as an avian “thank you.”