Going on a safari is arguably the ultimate travel experience. I’ve been fortunate to go on multiple safaris and I’ll never forget them. Traveling halfway around the world may not be in the cards for most Americans but fortunately, there’s a way to go on a safari in the United States without traveling all the way to Africa.

According to Google, there are 115 wildlife and safari parks in the United States. I had no idea there were that many. I would have guessed about a dozen and last year, my family and I visited what is arguably the best and most popular. Here’s my post on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. You can get tickets here.

One safari park I didn’t know existed, and seems to be quite popular, is the 1,800-acre Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Central Texas. Fossil Rim is a not-for-profit conservation center near Glen Rose, Texas and has over 1,000 animals from 50 species.

One of the most popular attractions is the self-drive safari where visitors get to drive themselves in their own car along a path where exotic and endangered animals all roam free. Visitors are also allowed to feed the animals.

A video of an encounter with a giraffe and a toddler on June 1 is going viral and for good reason. According to KWTX, “Paisley Toten, 2, was riding in the back of a pickup truck with her mom, feeding all the animals, when one giraffe accidentally grabbed her shirt and lifted Paisley into the air. Paisley’s father, Jason Toten, recalled the moment the giraffe picked up his daughter, which was caught on video (embedded below) by a car behind them. “We stopped to feed the giraffes and I turned around to look out the back window, and I saw the giraffe kind of digging around right there, and then it just grabbed her and I didn’t see her no more,” he said.”

@dailymail A toddler was SNATCHED out of her mother’s arms during a safari ride in Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas. 🎥 Storyful #news #giraffe #texas #baby #zoo #safari ♬ original sound – GLOSS

As you can imagine, the internet is jumping all over the parents for putting their toddler in this situation. Here are just a few of the comments:

@garmenaca: Darwin Award.

@hdrangers: Riding in the back of a pickup is dangerous. Obviously, the giraffe had more sense than the adults. Please don’t place CHILDREN or PETS in the bed of your truck.

@chrismawata8755: An adult giraffe is 18 to 20 feet tall. I don’t think the parents realize how lucky they are that the giraffe made the drop early.

@jennapitts8373: Thank god it wasn’t a Dingo! Giraffe knew that baby was in danger with those people.

However, at the time of this incident, Fossil Rim allowed visitors to ride in the bed of a truck as long as there was an adult riding in the bed. As you may have guessed, they just changed the rules. Their website now states: “Stay in your vehicle with doors closed at all times. Most Fossil Rim animals are free-roaming and may approach the vehicle. Even animals that may seem docile to you can be dangerous. For visitor safety, all tailgates, van/car doors, and hatchbacks must be closed at all times and you must be seated within the vehicle – no sitting on window ledges or on top of the vehicle. Vehicles with “soft doors,” “tube doors,” or doors removed, such as Jeeps, will not be allowed to enter the park. Effective June 6th, 2024, guests are no longer permitted to ride in the bed of pickup trucks.”

Totem was interviewed by local news KWTX (interview embedded below) and he explained how the accident happened: “Paisley was holding the bag and the giraffe went to go get the bag, not get her, but ended up getting her shirt too and picking her up.”

YouTube video

Thank God Paisley was fine and it was clearly an accident. I think we’ve all done some dumbs things before so I hope people cut these parents some slack.

I know I’ve had my fair share of dumb wild animal encounters, which I’ve since learned from. Below are pictures of just some of them:

Petting a cheetah in Africa.

Holding a tarantula in Belize.

Having a live octopus thrown on my head in French Polynesia.

Swimming with sharks in French Polynesia and Australia.

Getting kissed by a cow in Switzerland.


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