News

Toddler survives stare-down with Bengal tiger

A 2-year-old girl survived a stare-down with a 500-pound Bengal tiger after the tiger escaped its enclosure — with the help of a gibbon, of course — at a Florida exotic animal park.

Officials at Jungle Island in Miami called the incident a "freak accident." First, a White-Handed Gibbon escaped its enclosure and wandered to the tiger exhibit, where he riled up the massive Bengal tiger.

"With the momentum and the excitement he had from seeing the gibbon, (the tiger) was able to get over the fence," Jungle Island's Ashley Serrate said.

That's where the tiger met 2-year-old Dianita Barratt, who was spending the day at Jungle Island with her mom, Diana.

"She started walking down the trail ahead of me, and I decided just to leave the stroller and my purse behind and go after her," Diana said. "I rounded the corner and she's standing there staring at this tiger. It's very scary to have your 2-year-old daughter in such close proximity to a tiger."

Barratt calmly picked her daughter up, and was quickly escorted by park employees to a secure building.

"I don't know how I maintained the calm. I just thought I shouldn't make any sudden moves, that I shouldn't do anything to excite the tiger," Diana told Matt Lauer on TODAY.

The culprit, employees said, was a White-Handed Gibbon, who by mechanical and human error escaped his enclosure.

"It's a freak incident," Serrate said. "It's an isolated incident it's not something we've ever had happen in the park.

"It's important to note that all of our animals here are raised by humans so they're used to human interaction, so at no point did the tiger ever think that the human was a threat or was going to be an issue."

Park officials added that they have protocols in place for situations such as this, and have had several drills for their trained staff in order to be best prepared. They added that guests' safety is their number one priority.

As for Barratt, she said she's not sure they'll be going back to Jungle Island anytime soon.

"We're not going to be renewing our annual pass," she said on TODAY.

TOP