Zeff, a 300 pound, 11 year old Amur tiger, moves in her new habitat, called Tiger Mountain, at the Bronx Zoo in New York, May 14, 2003. The three acre habitat holds eight tigers and brings zoo visitors face-to-face with the big cats, as they look through especially thick glass for their protection. Picture taken May 14, 2003. (Photo : Reuters)
David Villalobos, the New York man who jumped into the cage of a Bronx Zoo tiger and was later mauled, told detectives that “he wanted to be one with the tiger,” The Associated Press reported.
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Villalobos, a 25-year-old real estate agent, leaped from an elevated train, the AP reported, landed on all fours and was attacked by the tiger on Friday afternoon. New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said that Villalobos was then dragged around by his foot by the 400-pound animal.
According to the AP, Browne also said that Villalobos told police that he was able to pet the Siberian male named Bashuta before he was rescued. The animal enthusiast was hospitalized and would be arrested on trespassing charges, the AP reported.
Villalobos allegedly admitted that the decision was conscious but later retracted on Saturday, telling police that “his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger,” Brown told the AP.
The man was still in the hospital on Saturday with a broken arm and leg, along with bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back.
Villalobos first made his way to his terrifying encounter with the beast during a ride on an elevated train at the zoo. He then jumped over the 16-foot-high fence of the cage, the AP reported. Ten minutes passed before he was rescued by zoo officials.
The AP reported that Bashuta was the only tiger present in the exhibit at the time, although the zoo boasts a total of 10 tigers at its Wild Asia exhibit.
Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said, “When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves, it’s very hard to stop that. The tiger did nothing wrong.” According to zoo officials, 11-year-old Bashuta would remain in rotation at the exhibit.