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Dying Zoo Keeper Receives Goodbye Kisses from Giraffes He Cared 25-Years For

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A terminally ill zoo worker got a goodbye kiss from a giraffe after he was wheeled in to see the zoo animals one last time.


Having spent his entire working life at the Rotterdam’s Diergaarde Blijdorp Zoo, 54-year-old Mario just had one final request as he battled cancer. He wanted to see his friends one last time. With the help of the Ambulance Wish Foundation, Mario’s wish came true. 

Mario had committed 25 years to care for these majestic creatures, and now entered the zoo for the last time. After entering the giraffe enclosure, it only took a few minutes for the giraffes to recognize the man who had faithfully tended to them for years. 

The giraffes not only recognized their friend, they recognized that there was something very wrong with Mario and began nuzzling him and giving him kisses. 

Animals have been known to be able to sense illness in humans, but no one was anticipating this kind of emotional response for their companion.

Being in the advanced stages of his terminal cancer, as well as being mentally disabled, Mario had difficulty speaking, “However, his face spoke volumes,” said Kees Veldboer, the founder of the Ambulance Wish Foundation. 

“These animals recognized him and felt that (things aren’t) going well with him. (It was) a very special moment. You saw him beaming.”

To finish his visit, Mario requested to spend time with his former colleagues to bid them a final farewell. 

“It was very nice that we were able to work on the last wish of this man,” Mr. Veldboer concluded.