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Dad Carries Toddler Into Zoo Elephant Enclosure for Photo, Gets Charged


A father was caught on camera carrying his 2-year-old daughter into an elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo to take a picture with the animals. After getting charged by an elephant, he was then arrested and charged by police.

25-year-old Jose Manuel Navarrete was allegedly spotted and filmed crossing multiple barriers at around 4:20 p.m. last Friday to “purposely and illegally trespass” into the elephant habitat with his young child.

As you can see in the short clip above shot by a bystander, the father was getting ready to pose for a picture with his daughter before a large elephant suddenly charged the pair while trumpeting loudly (to the horror of the onlookers, who can be heard screaming in the video). The man then hurriedly climbed back through the fence, dropping his daughter in the process. After turning back and grabbing the toddler, he and the child luckily managed to escape the incident unscathed.

“On March 19, two guests, despite multiple barriers, purposely and illegally trespassed into a habitat, which is home to our Asian and African elephants,” the San Diego Zoo says in a statement. “San Diego Zoo security promptly responded to the incident, but the guests had already exited the habitat. Both the elephants and the guests are unharmed.”

Legally, however, the father may not be as lucky. CBS 8 San Diego reports that Navarrete was quickly arrested by police and charged with child neglect, child abuse, and trespassing. He is being held in a San Diego County jail with bail set at $100,000.

Navarrete told police that he “wanted to take a photo with the African bull elephant.”

Here’s a local news report by CBS 8 on the incident:

Experts believe the elephant may have been doing a mock charge to scare away what it perceived to be an intruder in its territory. But mock charges can easily turn into an actual attack.

“It’s an extremely dangerous situation, and no one in their right mind should ever think about doing this,” PAWS science director Catherine Doyle tells CBS 8 San Diego. “If someone thinks that they’re going to take a chance, you know, for a thrill, try to do something like this, and do a selfie with a wild animal, you know you can end up losing your life.”