Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Pictured: Moment giraffe kisses terminally ill zoo worker goodbye

Dying man asked to be taken into giraffe enclosure to say final goodbye

A giraffe nuzzles Mario
A giraffe nuzzles Mario
A giraffe nuzzles Mario

Heart-breaking pictures have emerged of the moment a giraffe said goodbye to a terminally ill zoo worker, who had spent most of his adult life cleaning the animal's enclosures.

Maintenance worker Mario, who has terminal cancer, asked to be taken into the giraffe enclosure at Rotterdam’s Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo.

The 54-year-old was wheeled into the enclosure on his hospital bed and within minutes the giraffes approached him and began to nuzzle and kiss him.

The Ambulance Wish Foundation, which transported Mario to the zoo, said Mario has little mobility and finds speaking very difficult. "However, his face spoke volumes", they said.

"These animals recognised him, and felt that (things aren’t) going well with him,’ Kees Veldboer, the founder of the AWF told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

"(It was) a very special moment. You saw him beaming."

Mario, who has a mental disability, was also given the chance to say goodbye to his colleagues at the zoo, where had had worked for almost 25 years.

The AWF relies on 200 volunteers and helps to make the last wishes of terminally ill patients come true by transporting them in specially designed ambulances.

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