Tags: giraffe | goodbye | zoo | worker | dying | cancer

Giraffe Goodbye: Animal Nuzzles Zoo Worker Dying of Cancer (Photo)

By Angela Deines   |   Friday, 21 Mar 2014 05:32 PM

A giraffe bid a zoo worker a touching goodbye as the 54-year-old, who is losing his battle to cancer, was wheeled around the zoo Wednesday for likely his last visit. He had taken care of the giraffe for most of its adult life at Rotterdam's Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo.

According to Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad and reported by the U.K.’s Independent, the worker, who is identified as only “Mario,” was placed by the giraffes’ habitat as his dying wish, which was granted by the Ambulance Wish Foundation. The charitable organization in the Netherlands is said to be the adult version of the Make-A-Wish Foundation that grants requests of terminally ill children.

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Kees Veldboer, AWF’s founder, told the Algemeen Dagblad that Mario, who cleaned the giraffes’ pen for about 25 years, now has difficulty speaking and moving in addition to having a mental disability.

"However, his face spoke volumes," Veldboer said. "These animals recognized him, and felt that (things aren’t) going well with him. (It was) a very special moment. You saw him beaming."

The AWF grants wishes to terminally ill patients by taking them to places they want to go in uniquely-designed ambulances. After AWF volunteers wheeled Mario’s hospital bed into the giraffe habitat, one of the animals approached him and “nuzzled and kissed him,” the Independent said.

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