Giraffe kisses zookeeper: A giraffe's zookeeper kiss for a dying cancer patient who worked at a Dutch zoo is one of the most captivating internet photos, and reveals a tender bond rarely seen between the wild animal kingdom and their human counterparts.
According to NBC News on Friday, “the Dutchman, known only as Mario, worked at the zoo for 25 years and asked if he could see the giraffes one last time to say goodbye.”
Despite being cancer stricken and lying in a hospital bed, Mario was brought back to the giraffe habitat at Rotterdam's Diergaarde Blijdorp, one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands. The 54-year-old man watched and waited to see if he could share a special moment with the animals he had loved and cared for over the last two decades.
In a photo that’s now breaking the internet's heart, one giraffe walked over, leaned way down, and kissed Mario. Perhaps the giraffe was just curious. Or, perchance, the graceful animal understood that the former employee was suffering, and said goodbye in its own way.
The reunion came about through the efforts of the Dutch Ambulance Wish Foundation – an organization that tries to realize the last wishes of people suffering progressive, terminal illnesses.
“You could see him totally light up,” said Kees Veldboer, founder and director of the organization. “It's very special to see that those animals recognize him, and sense that he isn't doing well.”
Mario, who also has a mental disability, spent nearly his entire life as a zookeeper and maintenance man, cleaning out the animals' enclosures, and would often spend afternoons watching and interacting with the giraffes.
The touching encounter is now an internet sensation. Please share.