Gratitude – the Penguin model!

The Bricklayer and the Penguin.

The following glorious story, a true story I should have made clear, was sent to me recently by Cynthia, wife of my long-term Californian friend Dan Gomez. It’s a story that was broadcast by TV Globo, not a station I had previously heard of. Unsurprising really when a quick web search finds their details:

Rede Globo, or simply Globo, is a Brazilian television network, launched by media mogul Roberto Marinho on 26 April 1965. It is owned by media conglomerate Grupo Globo, being by far the largest of its holdings.

Here’s that story.


The Bricklayer and the Penguin

This penguin swims 5,000 miles every year for a reunion with the man who saved his life.

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Best buds (Picture: TV Globo)

Todays most heartwarming story is brought to you from a beach in Brazil. The story of a South American Magellanic penguin who swims 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.

Retired bricklayer and part time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro , Brazil , found the tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011. Joao cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.

The prodigal penguin returns (Picture: TV Globo)
The prodigal penguin returns (Picture: TV Globo)

After a week, he 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. And, just a few months later, Dindim was back. The penguin spotted the fisherman on the beach one day and followed him home.

Look who's back (Picture: TV Globo)
Look who’s back (Picture: TV Globo)

For the past five years, Dindim has spent eight months of the year with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile. It is thought he swims up to 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.

(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University )
(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University)

I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me, Joao 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.

It's thought Dindim believes the fisherman is also a penguin (Picture: TV Globo)
It’s thought Dindim believes the fisherman is also a penguin (Picture: TV Globo)

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.

(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University)
(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University)

Biologist Professor Krajewski, who interviewed the fisherman 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.”

And, just like that, the world seems a kinder place again.


Unsurprisingly there are numerous videos of Joao and Dindim to be found on YouTube but I have selected the following one for you.

It’s wonderful how our worries about the nature of us humans can be swept away just as easily as an ocean wave breaking on a beach near an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro.

20 thoughts on “Gratitude – the Penguin model!

  1. That’s amazing. So nice of Joao to look after the poorly penguin in the first place, but the penguin clearly adores him now. What a bond. Joao must really start to look out for him in June though hoping to see his friend yet again. I think penguins are adorable. Saw quite a few in New Zealand.


    1. Yes, a really amazing story and another example of the bonding opportunities between animals and humans. New Zealand is a country I have wanted to visit all my life. How long were you there?


      1. I went twice. Once when I was in Aus, for about three weeks I think. Second time was a study tour I organised through work, so three weeks work, followed by two weeks hol. The second trip was the penguin one 🙂


  2. Aww that a beautiful bonding this pair have.. How wonderful to see.. And who says Animals do not have feelings or souls.. 🙂 We so need more of these heart felt uplifting stories… 🙂


      1. Sue, I have just come back inside the house from feeding the horses in the morning. But to underline in spades about animals having feelings let me add this. In the morning I also put out food (cob that is oats and molasses) for the wild deer. Today, there were 4 deer waiting for me! A young stag, two young females (Does?) and the adult mother. The mother has become increasingly comfortable with me and often sticks her head in the bucket as I’m pouring the cob onto the ground.

        However, this morning I paused as the mother deer eagerly eat the cob. Slowly I reached out with my left hand a distance of less than a foot and softly stroked her neck with my fingers. That mother deer didn’t flinch! Talk about feelings – of both me and that mother deer!


  3. I adore this story which is just about the cutest and sweetest thing I’ve had the pleasure of reading along with viewing the video. I keep telling folks all the time how intelligent animals are and how much they will love a human for being kind to them.

    I love the story of you with the deer. Amazing how tame the doe has become.


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