Tuesday afternoon, a woman took her trip a step too far when she climbed over a fence, crossed a ditch, and meandered into the Elephants of Asia exhibit at the L.A. Zoo. Witnesses say she stood observing and petting the two elephants for over five minutes before calmly climbing back out again as over three dozen onlookers watched.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the woman later revealed to police that she was mentally ill and off her medication. Upon exiting the enclosure, she was escorted to a hospital for treatment but was not physically hurt.
Branden Adams, 15, recorded the entire incident on his cell phone. The footage was later featured on KTLA.
"She went in to kind of check the elephants out," Adams told KTLA. "She comes out and she says, 'I'm going to go pet the elephants now.' And she goes and she started touching the elephants."
Over three dozen onlookers screamed at her to "get out" and cautioned her that she "was gonna get hurt," according to Adams. But, he added, no one wanted to go in and get her.
Jason Jacobs, a zoo spokesperson, later vehemently defended the zoo's barriers.
"It's just very frustrating to us," Jacobs told KPCC. "Have you gone up to the polar bear enclosure and been possessed to pet the polar bears? Something tells you, 'I should probably stop.' We have a million and a half visitors a year who obey the rules."
But all it takes is one person breaking them for tragic results.
"What we're most worried about is copycats," Jacobs added. "We don't want the old days when everything was in cages. But these are not pets. These are exotic animals."
"We were very fortunate that in this incident nothing happened," he said.
Tina and Jewel, the two elephants in the enclosure, each weigh around 6,000 and 8,000 pounds.
According to Jacobs, the Los Angeles Zoo has public safety officers that patrol the zoo 24 hours a day by bicycle, cart and on foot.
The zoo has no plans to increase security "based on the actions of one person."