A 25-year-old man was arrested Friday after he brought his 2-year-old daughter in the San Diego Zoo’s elephant habitat and one of the animals charged them.
Police said both Jose Navarrete and his daughter got out of the enclosure safely, and the zoo said the elephants were also unharmed.
“This afternoon, March 19, 2021, two guests, despite multiple barriers, purposely and illegally trespassed into a habitat, which is home to our Asian and African elephants,” the zoo said in a statement. “San Diego Zoo security promptly responded to the incident, but the guests had already exited the habitat.”
Navarrete faces a charge related to child cruelty and is being held on a $100,000 bail. He is scheduled for arraignment on March 30.
Zoo guest Matthew Passiglia told NBC 7 the African elephant noticed Navarrete and the toddler very quickly.
“A lot of people froze and didn’t know really how to take it in, then immediately everyone was pleading with him and then it became frantic and hysterical,” Passiglia said.
Next, he said, the elephant roared.
“It was a big roar. [The elephant] stuck its head up in the air and its tusks and he started trotting toward them,” Passiglia said.
Other witnesses tried to help, Passiglia said, and Navarrette tripped and dropped the little girl.
“I didn’t think it was going to end well,” he said, but Navarrette picked up his daughter and got outside the fence in time.
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[Featured image: Screenshot from NBC7 video]