Northern European countries have lately been making headlines about giraffes — primarily due to their controversial policy of euthanizing healthy zoo giraffes to prevent inbreeding. But today, the European giraffes are making headlines for something different. In a heartbreaking scene, Dutch giraffes give kisses and say farewell to a terminally-ill cancer patient who spent his entire adult life caring for them.
A 54-year old man, known only as Mario, was able to fulfill his dying wish to say goodbye to the animals he considered family, thanks to the Dutch equivalent of the American Make-a-Wish Foundation. Known as the Ambulance Wish Foundation, the organization arranged with the Dutch Zoo to have Mario wheeled into the giraffes’ enclosure so he could bid them farewell.
The reunion was deeply touching to those who witnessed it. Kees Veldboer, the founder of the Ambulance Wish Foundation, watched as the giraffes clearly recognized Mario even though he was horizontal and wrapped in blankets. In a snapshot that has stirred emotions across cyberspace, Mario lies in his hospital bed while one of his giraffes leans over, sniffs him and then plants a big wet lick on his cheek.
The Ambulance Wish Foundation specializes in taking terminally-ill patients one last time to places they loved or have always wanted to see.