Man attacked by tiger after wanting to become one with it

Tiger at the Bronx Zoo illustration 
By: Eva Fett 

A man was attacked by a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York, after he jumped into its cage. He told rescuers that he wanted to become one with the tiger.

The man was maimed by the 400-pound tiger at the Bronx Zoo. He told a police officer after being rescued that he made a conscious decision to jump from an elevated train into the animal's mouth, a police spokesperson said last week.

A New York Police Department sergeant, who responded to the scene on Friday, asked David Villalobos why he made his headline-grabbing jump, said police spokesperson Paul Browne of New York.

"Everyone makes decisions in life," Villalobos said, according to the spokesperson.
Browne said that Villalobos' Facebook page suggests he is a pet lover, but gives no further clues as to the reason.

Villalobos, 25, remains hospitalized with bites and punctures in the arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken arm and a leg.

He was heavily sedated and could not speak to the police, Browne said. Police charged him with trespassing.

The incident happened on Friday afternoon, at the Wild Asia exhibit, where a train with open sides took visitors on the Bronx River and through the woods. The train slides along the top of a fence with elephant, deer and a tiger enclosures.

Passengers are not tied into the ride, and 25-year-old David Villalobos apparently jumped from his wagon train with a jump powerful enough to clear the perimeter fence of almost five meters high.

Villalobos was alone with a male Siberian tiger named Bashuta for about 10 minutes before being 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, it is very difficult to stop that," a zoo official said.

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

"The tiger did nothing wrong in this episode," Breheny said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Villalobos was in stable condition, but his family has requested that no further information is released.

"If not for the quick response of our staff and their ability to perform well in emergency situations, the outcome would have been very different," Breheny said.

Bashuta is 11-year-old and has been at the zoo for three years.