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Heartbreaking: Giraffe Kisses Dying Zookeeper

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.

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Cherise Udell

Cherise Udell is a mom, clean air advocate, anthropologist and feline aficionado with the nomadic habit of taking spontaneous sojourns to unusual destinations. Before her adventures in motherhood, she was an intrepid Amazon jungle guide equipped with a pair of sturdy wellingtons and a 24-inch machete, as well as a volunteer at a rainforest animal rescue center.


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1:45PM PST on Feb 25, 2015

thanks for sharing :)

1:47AM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

Thank you to all who love the animals and the planet, and who already signed the petition to protect horses from Pétropolis, if no, please help give an happy end to the sad story of those enslaved animals, and share these petitions :
1) Care 2

Thank you for sharing

1:44PM PDT on Jul 15, 2014

Thank you

10:34PM PDT on Jun 19, 2014

I saw this touching story and photo a little while ago. I agree with Francesca....sad, but beautiful.....and hard to stop the from crying.

9:02AM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

This is incredibly sad, but beautiful. (Now I just have to try not to cry)

12:13PM PDT on May 27, 2014


9:34AM PDT on May 18, 2014

you gotta love animals

8:57AM PDT on May 13, 2014

that was sad enough that he was 54 years old. kudos for curing our anxiety

4:58AM PDT on May 12, 2014

So sweet.
It further illustrates that animals have a knowledge of feelings.
God's bless the animal and it's minder.

6:46AM PDT on May 10, 2014

Ranhit O. - You totally missed the point. Negative comments on a story that is now two months old are not necessary and show your true character.

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people are talking

very interesting article, thanks.

I guess I have plebeian tastes, but "just chopped up in a bowl without any fanfare" is how I like to…

We anteaters eat... well, you know what.


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