After the Dutch zookeeper Mario Eijis (54) got the message that he has terminal cancer and only weeks to live, he wanted to say goodbye to “his” beloved animals and colleagues in Blijdrop zoo in Rotterdam, writes the newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
For over 20 years, the mentally ill man has almost daily helped watching the animals in the zoo. Unfortunately, cancer put a stopper to his regular visits, and he is now very weak.
Aided by foundation
However, the foundation Stichting Ambulance Wens (Ambulance Wish Foundation) heard of Mario and his condition. The foundation meets terminally ill patients’ desire to be brought to places they would not otherwise be able to visit because of illness. They wanted to help so that the zookeeper could have a chance to say his goodbyes.
Once in Blijdorp he rolled out among giraffes in the hospital bed. Then, suddenly, came one of the giraffes over to Mario and examined him with her lips – it looked like a kiss.
– The animals recognized him and realized that all was not well, says Kees Veldboer from the Ambulance Foundation.
– Very special
– Mario cannot touch anything in particular, and talking is very difficult for him. But his face said more than a thousand words – it was a very special moment, he says.
– I could see that Mario thought it was fantastic, says his sister Petra.
In addition to meeting the giraffes, Mario also said his goodbyes to the other animals in the zoo.
Several studies, including this one from 2007, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, supports the theory that animals have the ability to sense serious illness in humans.