Giraffe Lifts Toddler Out of Car at Texas Zoo

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 06, 2024

A giraffe at a Texas zoo stunned onlookers when it lifted a toddler into the air by pulling her by her shirt collar.

Luckily, the giraffe let go of the child almost immediately, so the toddler wasn’t injured at all. However, this potentially scary moment has gone viral online as many social media users comment on the surprising interaction.

Visiting a Texas Zoo

Paisley Toten, a two-year-old toddler, was visiting the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, located in Glen Rose, Texas, early this June alongside her parents, Sierra Robert and Jason Toten.

Giraffes seen outside with others in the daytime.

Source: Dan Dennis/Unsplash

This wildlife center allows visitors to drive on a path through the zoo to see the animals up close. This also gives visitors a chance to feed friendly animals, such as giraffes.


Riding in the Bed of a Truck

This Texas zoo also allows visitors to ride in truck beds during their travels through the center. However, children can only ride in the truck bed as long as an adult is present with them.

A close-up of a giraffe’s face.

Source: Gary Bendig/Unsplash

This policy further encourages friendly interactions between people and animals that live in the sanctuary.

Feeding Giraffes

The Toten family was visiting the zoo, simply following the path of cars on the trail that everyone else was on, when a giraffe walked over to their truck bed.

A close-up of a person feeding a giraffe.

Source: David Clode/Unsplash

This giraffe was eating snacks people were offering it. So, it went over to the truck bed to find Robert with her daughter, Paisley.

A Horrifying Few Seconds

One moment, the mother and daughter were laughing at the giraffe lowering its head to search for snacks. The next moment, Paisley was lifted up by the giraffe, into the air and out of her mother’s arms.

A close-up of a giraffe grabbing a toddler by the shirt.

Source: Screenshot/Jason Toten

To do this, the giraffe bit the toddler’s shirt collar and picked her up above the truck bed. For only a few horrifying seconds, the toddler was fully in the giraffe’s grasp.

A Safe Landing

However, this scary situation quickly ended when the giraffe let go of the child’s shirt, allowing her to drop back into her mother’s arms.

A giraffe lifting a toddler up from the back of a truck bed.

Source: Sierra Robert/Facebook

Paisley wasn’t hurt at all, and the giraffe didn’t proceed to act aggressively or dangerously to the family — or anyone else — after this stunning moment.


Eyewitnesses Watch in Horror

This incident was caught on camera by Robert and another visitor a few cars behind the family. At first, it appeared eyewitnesses watched in horror during these few seconds when the giraffe had Paisley by the shirt.

A giraffe sticking its tongue out underneath a blue sky.

Source: Wolfgang Hasselmann/Unsplash

Lindsay Merrirmen, a visitor who saw this moment, explained, “My daughter was recording a giraffe eating out of people’s hands and dipping its head in sunroofs. We were 3 cars behind a red truck and saw the giraffe accidentally grab a little girl’s shirt along with the food and lift her from the bed of the truck.”


The Giraffe’s Mistake

Paisley’s father, Jason Toten, also spoke out about this incident, explaining how the scary moment was simply a mistake by a giraffe who was looking for food.

Toddler holding snacks to feed giraffe.

Source: Sierra Robert/Facebook

“Paisley was holding the bag, and the giraffe went to go get the bag, not her, but it ended up getting her shirt too and picked her up,” Jason explained, adding, “As soon as she went up, her mom yelled, ‘Hey!’ and the giraffe let go.”


A Brave Toddler

Paisley’s parents further claimed that their toddler wasn’t even scared by the interaction — even though they clearly were. “My heart stopped,” Toten said.

A look up at a giraffe’s face and neck seen underneath a cloudy blue sky.

Source: Frenjamin Benklin/Unsplash

Robert, meanwhile, posted a video of their enjoyable, yet momentarily scary, trip, writing, “So we took a trip to fossil rim today and it was a blast buttttt…. I would discourage you from riding in the back of the truck.”


The Zoo’s Response

The wildlife center was quick to make a statement to discuss the situation, explaining that they always consider the safety of both their visitors and animals incredibly important. They also stated that nothing like this had ever happened before.

Two giraffes seen standing outside in the daytime.

Source: Nicolas J Leclercq/Unsplash

“Although an incident like this has never occurred here previously, we are taking immediate action to make sure it won’t happen again,” the statement read.


A Change in Policy

Fossil Rim further stated that they would no longer offer visitors the opportunity to ride throughout the zoo in truck beds. This decision was made to keep all guests and animals safe.

A giraffe seen outside eating plants.

Source: David Clode/Unsplash

Paisley’s parents have since expressed their sorrow over this decision, as they truly had a great time. They don’t blame the zoo or the giraffe for this incident.


A Toddler’s Memorable Day

After the family assured everyone that Paisley was okay — and that they weren’t angry at all that this accident happened — they shared how they ended their trip to the zoo.

Sierra Robert and daughter Paisley sitting on truck bed.

Source: Sierra Robert/Facebook

They headed to the wildlife center’s gift shop to purchase Paisley a stuffed toy giraffe, along with a matching shirt, so that she could remember this remarkable day.