Tigers’ den jumper wanted ‘to be one’ with beast, police say
NEW YORK (CNN) — A 25-year-old man will be charged with criminal 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.
Zoo officials say 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.