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A Penguin's Story

This is one of the most heart-warming true tales you're ever likely to read.

Every year, a South American Magellanic penguin swims 5,000 miles to be reunited with the fisherman who saved its life, spending approximately eight months with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding off the Patagonian coast.

It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, but it’s true!

71-year-old retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, found the small Magellanic penguin lying on rocks at his local beach in 2011. The penguin was covered in oil and close to death. Joao rescued the penguin, naming it Din Din, cleaned the oil off its feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to rebuild its strength.

After a week of rehabilitation, Joao attempted to release the penguin back into the wild. However, Din Din had already formed a family bond with his rescuer and 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. However, a few months later, he was back at the same beach. He spotted Joao fishing and followed him home, staying with him for the rest of the year.

Amazingly, this cycle has continued over the past five years; each year Din Din spends approximately eight months with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding on the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile.

“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. Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me for the past five 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.”

Professor Krajewski, a biologist 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.”

Isn't that just about the most heart-warming story you've ever heard?

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