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A former zookeeper’s final wish came true in the sweetest possible way

Is it dusty in here? 


Audra Schroeder


Posted on Mar 22, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 2:33 pm CDT

A 54-year-old man suffering from a terminal illness had one wish: He wanted to visit the giraffes he used to take care of one last time.

Mario’s wish was granted by the Ambulance Wish Foundation, which caters to immobile patients. They transported the former zookeeper, who has a brain tumor and is largely paralyzed, to Rotterdam’s Diergaarde Blijdorp Zoo, where he’d worked for 25 years. Colleagues claimed he loved his job and was especially fond of the giraffes.

His hospital bed was wheeled into the pen with the giraffes, who approached him with curiosity. One in particular gets close enough to gently nuzzle his face, perhaps the giraffe’s way of expressing empathy. The Foundation’s director related that the animals “could sense all was not well with him.”

Mario was also wheeled around the rest of the zoo, to take it all in before he passed.

Screengrab via J.A.A. van Dam/YouTube

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*First Published: Mar 22, 2014, 2:43 pm CDT