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03/20/2014 04:59 pm ET

Giraffe Shares Touching Goodbye With Dying Zoo Worker (PHOTO)

A dying cancer patient who worked at a Dutch zoo returned to say goodbye on Wednesday. Lying in a hospital bed placed in the giraffe habitat at Rotterdam's Diergaarde Blijdorp, the 54-year-old man, identified as only Mario, waited for the animals to approach.

In an image now breaking the Internet's heart, one giraffe appears to understand the moment, kissing Mario.

giraffe kiss zookeeper

"You could see him totally light up," said Kees Veldboer, founder and director of Ambulance Wish Foundation, which arranged the farewell. "It's very special to see that those animals recognize him, and sense that he isn't doing well," he told Rotterdam newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

Mario, who has a mental disability, spent nearly his entire life as a maintenance man at the zoo, according to the paper.

After the touching encounter, he then bid farewell to his colleagues, the charity reported.

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