They knew their prom night would be jungle-themed, but surely didn’t think it would be so lively.
Christopher Columbus High School, which held its annual senior dance at the Double Tree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center on Friday, thought it was a good idea to let things get wild.
As wild as a debuting a wild tiger.
Alongside the giant cat in the iron cage was a lemur, two macaws, and an African fennec fox, school officials confirmed in a statement.
But it was the tiger’s presence in particular that sparked an outrage. Many students, teachers and parents took to social media calling it "animal abuse."
Footage shows an anxious tiger pacing inside the small enclosure as bright lights flashed around him.
Ron Magill, a longtime expert of animal behavior and spokesman for ZooMiami, told the Miami Herald Sunday the tiger was "obviously stressed."
"The tiger is clearly looking for a way to get out of that situation, it’s not difficult to interpret that behavior," Magill said. "He was surrounded by people, cell phones, lights, jugglers juggling fire. I really don’t know what they were thinking. Exploiting animals for entertainment at parties — that time has passed. We know better; we’ve been educated."
Added Magill: "When you see a tiger’s ears go to the side, or go flat back, that is not a good thing. That’s what we call helicopter mode; it’s how we read cats."
Marie-Christine Castellanos posted video clips of the festivity on Facebook .
"How shameful for Christopher Columbus High school …showing its students on prom night who is the "king of the jungle " this poor tiger was used as an exotic amusement for the mindless teenagers who were present."
School administrators defended the school’s decision to bring in wildlife and said the hotel approved the visit.
"Two Miami-Dade Police officers were present the entire time. The animals were provided by facilities that are licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The tiger, which was displayed for a few minutes in a cage was never harmed or in danger, was not forced to perform, was always accompanied by his handlers, and for the great majority of the time was lying down in a relaxed state facing away from the audience."