A man who jumped from the Bronx Zoo's monorail and was mauled by a tiger will go to court once he is released from the hospital, as he was issued a desk appearance ticket Saturday night for trespassing. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
He wanted to be one with the tiger.
That's what police say 25-year-old David Villalobos told them about his 17-foot jump from the Bronx Zoo monorail into the Wild Asia tiger enclosure. He was mauled by a 400-pound male Siberian named Bachuta.
Villalobos, a real estate agent from upstate Putnam County, told detectives he wasn't trying to kill himself. He said he landed in the tiger enclosure on all fours, just like a cat, breaking his ankle, shoulder, pelvis and right rib in the process. Then, despite being dragged by the foot and clawed on his back, arms and legs, he said he was able to pet the animal.
“I think that's why they have those little rails that gives you a clue not to go over that,” said one person at the zoo Saturday. “So that's the distance I'll keep from the tiger.”
The day after the leap into the tiger's den was a typical one at the Bronx Zoo. Most people were more concerned with whether or not they'd be able to see the two tiger exhibits.
“They're my favorite animal, first off,” said one attendee. “When I heard someone jumped into the tiger den, I thought, ‘Maybe I'd do the same thing.’ Not really.”
But visitors hoping to see Bachuta, who zoo officials described as "merciful" for not killing Villalobos, were out of luck. As the zoo rotates the tigers on exhibit, he was not expected to be on display.
“We're not concerned about it or the safety of the children or ourselves,” said one attendee. “We feel that it's very secure and it was an unfortunate event.”
Villalobos summed up his experience by telling police "Everyone in life makes choices." But police say his "choice" is bringing him with trespassing charges.
“I think as long as you don't do anything crazy, you're completely safe at the zoo,” said one attendee.
Zoo officials say this incident was the first of its kind. There’s no doubt they are hoping it's the last.