Skip to main content

Tigers' den jumper wanted 'to be one' with beast, police say

By Brittany Brady, CNN
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Tue September 25, 2012
The exhibit houses Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, as well as Malayan tigers.
The exhibit houses Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, as well as Malayan tigers.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The man faces trespassing charges
  • He remains hospitalized in stable condition
  • The man jumped from a monorail car into the Tiger Mountain exhibit Friday

New York (CNN) -- A 25-year-old man was charged with trespassing for jumping out of a monorail car into the Bronx Zoo's tiger den because he wanted "to be one" with the animal, police said Saturday.

David Villalobos, who is hospitalized in stable condition, said "his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger," according to Paul Browne, the NYPD's chief spokesman.

Villalobos was riding on the zoo's Wild Asia monorail around 3 p.m. Friday when he jumped out of the rail car, "clearing the exhibit's perimeter fence" and landing in the den, according to Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny.

Villalobos suffered a broken right shoulder, broken rib, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken pelvis and puncture wounds, according to police spokesman Brian Sessa. He later claimed to have pet one of the tigers before it backed off, Sessa added.

CORRECTION
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the area in the Bronx Zoo where a man was mauled by a tiger. David Villalobos jumped from a monorail into a tiger exhibit within the "Wild Asia" exhibit that's located in a different part of the zoo from the Tiger Mountain exhibit.

The spokesman said Villalobos was charged with trespassing and criminal trespassing. An arraignment has not yet been set.

Zoo officials said rescuers used a fire extinguisher to separate the man and the animal. Heeding instructions, Villalobos rolled "under a hot wire to safety," and the tiger backed off, Breheny said.

The zoo uses so-called hot wires -- or electrically charged cables -- as training tools to keep animals away from such areas as plant beds. If the animal comes into contact with the wire, it feels a small electric shock.

Villalobos' decision to follow instructions and roll under the wire "probably saved his life," Breheny told reporters Friday.

He was "conscious and talking" as he was taken by ambulance to Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York.

"I think it's safe to say that if the tiger really wanted to do harm to this individual he certainly had the time to do it," Breheny said. "This is just an extraordinary occurrence that happened because ... somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves."

The exhibit is called Tiger Mountain and houses Siberian tigers as well as Malayan tigers, according to the Bronx Zoo's website.

The Bronx Zoo is the city's flagship park run by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT