Published March 09, 2016
A Chinese proverb says that when you save a life, you’re forever responsible for it. And so it goes with a widowed fisherman, living on a remote beach in Brazil and his small but loyal feathered friend.
He calls him Jinjing, and without fail, the Magellanic penguin returns, like the prodigal son, after disappearing for days, weeks and even months to reconnect with the retired bricklayer, Joao Pereira de Souza — the human who saved his life.
The relationship was forever bonded in 2011, when de Souza found the oil-soaked bird lying on a beach by his shady home in Rio de Janeiro state. De Souza, 71, fed the bird sardines and enticed it to drink water.
Jinjing is a term of endearment in parts of Brazil, and not unlike a dog, the penguin never lets de Souza down – and even manages to perform his penguin duties.
Once a year, Jingjing joins thousands of other Magellanic penguins and migrates some 2,000 miles south to the Patagonia region during breeding season, which lasts from early September through February. And then he always comes back to the warm stretch of sand in Proveta, in southeast Brazil.