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Man Mauled At Bronx Zoo Wanted To ‘Be One With The Tiger’; Charged With Trespassing

When Asked Why He Jumped, Villalobos Said, 'Everyone In Life Makes Choices'
David Villalobos (credit: Facebook)

David Villalobos (credit: Facebook)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City police said they plan to arrest a man mauled by a tiger at the Bronx Zoo.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Saturday that 25-year-old David Villalobos told investigators that he deliberately leaped into a zoo exhibit because he wanted to “be one with the tiger.”

Villalobos was issued a desk appearance ticket, requiring his presence in court at a later date and charging him with criminal trespass and trespass, the NYPD said Saturday night.

Villalobos remained hospitalized in stable condition on Saturday after the 400-pound cat bit him in the back. He has bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, and a broken arm and a leg. He was heavily sedated and not speaking further to police, Browne said.

The police spokesman said that when a police officer asked Villalobos why he did it, the victim responded, “Everyone in life makes choices.”

WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall reports 

Browne said that Villalobos’ Facebook page suggests he’s an animal lover, but gives no further clues about his motive.

The mauling happened on Friday afternoon in the Wild Asia exhibit, where a train with open sides takes visitors over the Bronx River and through a forest, where they glide along the top edge of a fence past elephants, deer and a tiger enclosure.

Passengers aren’t strapped in on the ride, and 25-year-old Villalobos apparently jumped out of his train car with a leap powerful enough to clear the 16-foot-high perimeter fence.

Villalobos was alone with a male Siberian tiger named Bachuta for about 10 minutes before he was rescued by zoo officials, who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away, said zoo director Jim Breheny.

“When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves,” Breheny said, “it’s very hard to stop that.”

Bachuta was returned to a holding area where it usually sleeps at night and will not be euthanized, zoo officials said.

“The tiger did nothing wrong in this episode,” Breheny said. “If not for the quick response by our staff and their ability to perform well in emergency situations, the outcome would have been very different.”

After zoo staff chased the tiger off, Villalobos was instructed to roll under an electrified wire to get to safety, Breheny said. Zookeepers then called the tiger into a holding area, he said.

Bachuta is 11 years old and has been at the zoo for three years.

The Bronx Zoo, one of the nation’s largest zoos, sprawls over 265 acres and contains hundreds of animals, many in habitats meant to resemble natural settings. Its exhibits include Tiger Mountain, Congo Gorilla Forest and World of Reptiles.

There are 10 tigers at the Wild Asia exhibit, but Bachuta was the only one on display at the time. There are no surveillance cameras in that area of the exhibit.

Zoo officials said that they would review safety procedures, but stressed that the situation was unusual.

“We review everything, but we honestly think we provide a safe experience,” Breheny said. “And this is just an extraordinary occurrence. Somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves.”

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)