In 2011, a 71-year-old widower found a penguin on a Brazilian beach, soaked in oil and struggling to survive. João Pereira de Souza picked up the dying bird, placed him in the shade, cleaned him and fed him sardines before bringing him back to the water. João expected the penguin to swim off, but amazingly, he refused to leave. Thus began the epic friendship between João and Jingjing the Magellanic penguin.
Jingjing typically leaves in February for the cooler climates 2,000 miles away — but he never fails to return to João’s remote seaside shanty come June. Every year for the past four years, the two friends spend eight months out of the year together, strolling along the beach and swimming in the ocean. Jingjing has become something of a celebrity in this small Brazilian town. Locals have come to recognize the penguin is like a son to João, a former bricklayer.
Magellanic penguins are classified as a “threatened species,” primarily due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil spills, which kill 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year off the coast of Argentina.