Louisiana man jumps into Busch Gardens alligator pit in mindless bid for social media clout, gets busted by cops
By Nicholas McEntyre,2023-06-08
A Louisiana man who jumped into a zoo’s alligator pit was arrested after he posted a video of himself performing the stunt on social media.
Jacob Pursifull, 20, and his two pals last Thursday snuck into Busch Gardens Tampa, where they pretended to be stuck in a fake roller coaster seat, and stole a snack from an unmanned concession before he made his way to the park’s alligator exhibit.
Pursifull hopped the two fences that separate the public from the gators, held a camera toward the swimming reptiles, and trotted out an impression of Australian zookeeper Steve Irwin for his 1,184 TikTok followers.
“Crikey, mate, this is insane, let’s get a closer look, shall we, just to see how it is,” Pursifull said while recording the reptiles. “We have never been this close to the alligator, the crocodile, guys, crikey, look how big that bugger is.”
“The video was then uploaded to social media sites. Following investigative leads based on the linked social media posts, investigators were able to positively identify and locate Pursifull,” Tampa police said in a statement. “A probable cause warrant was issued for his arrest.”
He was charged with burglary of an occupied structure — a second-degree felony — and two misdemeanors counts of trespassing and petit theft, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrest inquiry.
Pursifull’s stunt, which occurred on June 1, was recorded by a bystander outside the double fence barrier, while a man wearing a neon green shirt yelled at the intruder.
A crowd had begun to form around the exhibit, while Pursifull kept on with his “Crocodile Hunter” performance, even turning the camera toward the zoogoers and calling people “Karens” if they told him to stop his foolishness.
“You got to get back out,” the man yelled at Pursifull, who pointed his camera to the man and responded with, “Another wild Karen, crikey.
“We’re gonna see if we can try and sneak out of here,” Pursifull says before jumping over the fences to leave the pit as he runs away, but not before escaping the man in the green shirt.
“He is nothing that anybody should look at, ‘Wow, that was cool,’ because that wasn’t,” Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation founder Vernon Yates told Fox 13. “That was stupid.”
Yates fears others will follow Pursifull and try to copy him, like with other TikTok trends.
“To the scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, he’s an 11 on what he did wrong, and there’s no way you can say to love and respect animals, and you do something that stupid,” Yates said.
The amusement park said it was thankful that Pursifull was arrested and facing charges.
“We are thankful to hear that the individuals involved in illegally entering one of our animal habitats recently have been arrested and are facing charges for their dangerous actions,” a spokesman told Fox 13. “The safety and well-being of our guests, ambassadors, and animals is a top priority, and we are very grateful to law enforcement, particularly the Tampa Police Department and their law enforcement partners, for their swift action.”
Pursifull, who has been sharing videos of him performing pranks on people since 2020, was booked into Orient Road Jail on Monday evening following his arrest but was released 17 hours later.
Many commenters on Pursifull’s video were cheering for the reptiles instead of the TikToker.
“Again, I’m still rooting for the gators,” a commenter named Brittany said.
“Omg wish the gator reacted a little faster,” another user said.
“Everyone point and laugh because he didn’t go viral,” a third added.