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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Man Allegedly Carries Daughter Into Elephant Enclosure at Zoo, Drops Her While Escaping Charging Animal

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Most families go to the zoo to get up close and personal with a variety of interesting animals that they would otherwise never get to see. There are plenty of safety measures in place to make sure that the animals are contained and content and only interact with visitors when intended.

But sometimes it’s the visitors who are more dangerous than the animals, getting far too up close and personal, and one man visiting the San Diego Zoo last week proved that.

It was around 4:20 p.m. on Friday at the elephant exhibit that the close call took place. According to witnesses and video footage, a 25-year-old father named Jose Navarrette took his 2-year-old daughter into the elephant enclosure.

Not content to view the enormous beasts from the walkway, Navarrette carried his daughter over barriers and through a fence to get into the pen, apparently in pursuit of a photo.

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It wasn’t long before one of the elephants noticed the man, and started coming towards him. As Navarrette scrambled to get away through the fence, he either dropped or threw his daughter.

The elephant came within feet of them. Navarrette picked up his daughter and headed back to the provided viewing walkway.

“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, according to KNSD-TV.

“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. San Diego Police Department is on site and we will follow their guidance.”

Watching the video, it’s a miracle that the two were able to get away unscathed. The elephant comes very close to them, and the crowd watches in horror, some people screaming.

Witnesses recalled the terribly foolhardy scene.

“You hear this woman yelling, ‘Jose, stop. Jose, stop,'” Lori Ortale told KSWB-TV. “And he jumps the fence and then he goes through, like, the elephant enclosure, and he’s got his little girl with him who, I don’t know, was — had to be under 2.

“And these guys right away were saying, ‘That elephant is going to charge,’ and it did.”

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“We told him to get out and he turned around and he saw it, thankfully, just in time,” witness Jake Ortale added. “He runs, throws his baby through the gate and it’s seconds from just hitting him. He jumps through the gate, falls, the baby’s on the ground and that’s when it roared. … The baby starts crying and we’re all like — yeah, people were just mad at this guy.”

“A lot of people froze and didn’t know really what to, how to take it in, then immediately everyone was pleading with him and then it became frantic and hysterical,” Matthew Passiglia told KNSD.

“It was a big roar. [The elephant] stuck its head up in the air and its tusks and he started trotting toward them,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to end well. There was a moment when the elephant had the option and luckily the elephant kind of took a second guess, and there was a little bit of confusion right there on the floor between them.”

The child allegedly went home with her mother, and Navarrette went to jail on child cruelty charges, though he could be facing more charges for his actions.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking