Jose Navarrete, 25, was arrested after allegedly bypassing security to take his toddler daughter into the elephant enclosure at San Diego Zoo on Friday.
A video of the alleged incident has revealed footage of the man inside the enclosure holding his daughter before an elephant charges towards them.
The man runs back to the barrier to escape the fencing but then drops the child before managing to pick her up and escape without incident.
Police have said that Mr Navarrete got past several security barriers to access the enclosure with the two-year-old girl.
The San Diego Police Department has claimed that once the pair were inside the enclosure an elephant noticed them and moved towards them, and the incident ensued.
Investigators have asked any witnesses to the incident to contact the department.
Mr Navarrete was charged with child cruelty and was being held at San Diego County Jail on $100,000 bail.
“Two guests, despite multiple barriers, purposely and illegally trespassed into a habitat, which is home to our Asian and African elephants,” the zoo said in a statement.
“San Diego Zoo security promptly responded to the incident, but the guests had already exited the habitat.”
Mr Navarrete is scheduled for arraignment on 30 March.
“A lot of people froze and didn’t know really how to take it in, then immediately everyone was pleading with him and then it became frantic and hysterical,” witness Matthew Passiglia told NBC7.
“It was a big roar. The elephant stuck its head up in the air and its tusks and he started trotting toward them.”
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