Dad Carries Toddler Into Elephant Enclosure At San Diego Zoo & Barely Makes It Out

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 

A dad brought his toddler daughter inside the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo and one of the animals began to charge at them

A father has been arrested after he decided it would be a good idea to bring his two-year-old daughter into the elephant habitat enclosure at the San Diego Zoo so they could take a photo. Yes, really.

The 25-year-old man, Jose Manuel Navarrete, climbed over multiple barriers and “purposely and illegally trespassed” into an area where Asian and African elephants live, zoo spokesman Andrew James said. The horrifying video shot by a witness shows the man standing with his back towards the elephant, who is visibly agitated. The elephant begins to charge the man, who throws his toddler through the fence and climbs out himself, seconds from being trampled by the animal.

Police said the father wanted to take a photo with the elephant and apparently thought bringing his toddler in with him made sense. African bush elephants can run up to 25 mph and weigh 13,000 pounds on average.

“You hear this woman yelling, ‘Jose, stop. Jose, stop,’” witness Lori Ortale told Fox5 News. “And he jumps the fence and then he goes through the elephant enclosure, and he’s got his little girl with him who, I don’t know, had to be under 2. These guys right away were saying, ‘That elephant is going to charge,’ and it did,” Ortale said.

Her husband, Jake Ortale, added: “We told him to get out and he turned around and he saw it thankfully just in time. He runs, throws his baby through the gate and it’s seconds from hitting him. He jumps through the gate, falls on the ground and then it roared. The baby starts crying and people were just mad at this guy.”

Navarrete, his daughter, and the elephants were all thankfully unharmed in the incident, police and zoo officials said. According to the zoo, the father’s presence in the enclosure upset the elephant. After Navarrete’s arrest, his daughter went home with her mother, Officer Tony Martinez told City News Service.

At least a couple of times a year, you hear about someone scaling an animal enclosure at a zoo. Not only is it completely unsafe for the person who chooses to do so, it can be deadly for the animal as well. In 2016, a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla. A zoo worker, fearing for the boy’s life, shot and killed Harambe.

San Diego County jail records show Jose Manuel Navarrete is being held on $100,000 bail for investigation of child endangerment. He is set to be arraigned on March 30.

This article was originally published on