“Beached in Brazil, a Young Penguin Finds a Human Soul Mate, 71” by Paul Kiernan. The Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2015.
Jinjing the penguin routinely visits a steamy tropical island in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro and hangs out with his former rescuer, a 71-year-old retired bricklayer, Joao Pereira de Souza, who is a widower and lives alone. Jinjing (a term of endearment in Brazil) is a Magellanic penguin native to Patagonia, 2,000 miles to the south, but he washed up one day in 2011, exhausted and soaked in oil, on a beach next to Mr. de Souza’s small shack. Mr. de Souza force-fed him sardines and released him back into the water. The penguin swam away, but quickly came back and Mr. de Souza fed him three more sardines. “He never left me again,” says Mr. de Souza, as Jinjing nibbles affectionately on his hand. (Experts think Jinjing is a male.)
Jinjing migrates to parts unknown each February, but always returns in June. During the other months, he spends 10–15 days away, but always comes back. “When he returns, he’s so happy to see me,” says Mr. de Souza. “He comes up to my neck and hoots.” The two enjoy quality time taking long walks together, swimming in the surf, and chatting.
(If I start chatting with a penguin, put me away. I already chat with a friendly robin.)
When Jinjing first arrived, Mr. de Souza tried to return him to his natural habitat by placing him on a friend’s boat with instructions to drop him overboard miles away. Jinjing was back at the beach before the boat. He is a jealous bird and attacks any dog or cat near Mr. de Souza. He even regards other humans with suspicion. The two often simply walk on the sand together or Jinjing swims alongside in the shallow surf.
Penguin experts suspect Jinjing’s mating instinct got confused by their first encounter and he now sees Mr. de Souza as a desirable partner. Many of Jinjing’s actions can be interpreted as typical courting efforts of a male penguin. “But,” says one expert, “It’s all theoretical. I mean, who knows what goes on in the mind of a lone penguin?”