Penguin Swims 5,000 Miles Each Year for Reunion With Man Who Saved His Life

March 9, 2016 Updated: May 26, 2017

A penguin swims 5,000 miles each year to reunite with a man who saved it.

A South American Magellanic penguin swims the journey annually to meet with a retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman, Joao Pereira de Souza. He lives on an island outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A few years ago, he found the penguin covered in oil and near death.

De Souza cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and gave him fish to help revive the bird, whom he named Jinjing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

When he tried to release the bird back into the wild, it wouldn’t leave.

I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me.
— Joao Periera de Souza

“He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” he said.

A few months later, Jinjing came back, spotting the fisherman on the beach before following him home. This has become a tradition. Jinjing usually spends eight months of the year with de Souza before going back to the coast of Argentina and Chile.

“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” he told Globo TV, according to The Independent. “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 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.”

Biologist Joao Paulo Krajewski said that he’s never seen anything like this.

“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,” he told the Independent.