A father in California is facing several charges, including child endangerment, after taking his 2-year-old daughter into the San Diego Zoo elephant enclosure to take a picture.

A witness video from the incident, which took place on Friday, shows the father standing in the enclosure with the toddler as a crowd looked on in disbelief. Witnesses then began shouting at the man when they noticed the elephant charging and swinging its trunk in his direction.

The 25-year-old father ran and hopped through the barrier but dropped his daughter near the elephant’s trunk. The man and toddler were able to safely get away from the African bull elephant, USA Today reports.

“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 said in a statement following the incident.

“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.”

According to San Diego County jail records, Jose Manuel Navarrete was held on $100,000 bail for an investigation of child endangerment. Navarrete was booked on charges of trespassing, child abuse, and child neglect.

Although guests at the zoo were shaken by the incident, Catherine Doyle, the director of science, research, and advocacy at the Performing Animal Welfare Society, told KHOU the elephant’s behavior was a normal reaction.

“The elephant you saw I believe is Chaba, who was actually taken from the wild when she was a baby, taken away from her wild family. She was responding the way really an elephant would to an intruder,” she explained.

“It looked to me like it was a mock charge, which is really intended to scare off an intruder. However, if Chaba thought her message wasn’t getting through, it could’ve turned into a more serious attack.”

An arraignment for Navarrete has been scheduled for March 30.

A bull elephant living in the wild will soon be a common sight at a North Florida refuge.
Tolstoy the bull elephant has survived many threats. But can he survive Europe's craving for avocados? AFP / Yasuyoshi CHIBA