Toddler comes face-to-face with tiger - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Toddler comes face-to-face with tiger

(NBC) - A 2-year-old girl survived a stare-down with a 500 pound Bengal tiger after the tiger escaped its enclosure at a Florida zoo.

Officials at Jungle Island in Miami called the incident a "freak accident."

It began when 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.

The culprit, employees said, was a the 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.

"Not if they don't enclose the tigers better than they did," she said.

Copyright 2010 NBC News.  All rights reserved.

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