Mario Elis has worked at the Netherlands’ Rotterdam’s Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo for 25 years and during his time there, he has made lots of special memories and connected with many of the animals who were in his care. In his role at the zoo, Mario worked as a maintenance staff member in charge of caring for some of the animals there. When he had only been there for a few years, he was suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer and was unable to go to work. However, he had one final request: he wanted to visit the zoo one last time. He wasn’t able to go to work, but in 2014, he was able to visit the zoo. On his final visit to the zoo, something heartwarming and heartbreaking happened.
A giraffe who had been in Mario’s care surprised the sick man with a goodbye kiss. Before he got cancer, Mario already had a mental disability and was unable to speak coherently. Furthermore, he couldn’t properly convey how he felt about things, but the look on his face was all anyone needed to see to understand how deeply moved he was by what happened. Mario was confined to a hospital bed because of his condition, so the Ambulance Wish Foundation came to his aid and transported him back to his beloved zoo so that he could see his long-lost friends.
When he was transported to the giraffe area, the huge animals seemed to sense that something was wrong and they were very careful around Mario. They touched him gently and their big eyes were full of sadness. It’s almost as if they knew how fragile their previous caretaker was and they understood that he was in pain. Animals can sense that, in most cases, even small domesticated animals. However, wild animals have senses that are finely tuned and they know when something’s off.
Fox 25 says that Kees Veldboer, the program’s founder, commented on the actions of the giraffes. “These animals recognized him, and felt that things aren’t going well with him.” Mario deeply enjoyed being at his zoo one last time and his eyes lit up with joy all throughout his visit there. He was able to truly say goodbye to not only his beloved animals but also his former coworkers. Watch the touching video below