(Reuters) - A man who was mauled by a Siberian tiger after jumping into the animal’s den at New York’s Bronx Zoo will be charged with criminal trespassing, New York City police said on Saturday.
David Villalobos, 25, was riding the zoo’s elevated monorail Friday afternoon and leapt from a car, clearing a fence around the tiger enclosure, according to a statement from the zoo.
Villalobos was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, which was upgraded to stable later in the day, a spokeswoman for the Jacobi Medical Center said. She could provide no further information Saturday, at his family’s request.
A law enforcement source, who did not wish to named, on Saturday confirmed a report that the man told police he had wanted to be “one with the tiger.”
Zoo and fire officials said Villalobos received bites or puncture wounds on his arms, legs and shoulder during the roughly 10 minutes he was alone with the tiger.
“One leg was severely injured,” said Frank Dwyer, a fire department spokesman.
In rescuing the man, the zoo’s emergency workers used a fire extinguisher to repel the tiger, then ordered the man to roll under an electrified perimeter wire to safety. The staff had been prepared to use deadly force if necessary, zoo director Jim Breheny told a televised news conference on Friday.
“If not for the quick response by our staff and their ability to perform well in emergency situations, the outcome would have been very different,” the zoo director said.
The tiger involved is an 11-year-old, 400-pound (180-kg) male named Bachuta, Breheny said. The director said the zoo would review the incident but would not put the tiger down or take it out of the exhibit.
Breheny said the incident was “just an extraordinary event that happened because somebody was trying to endanger themselves.”
“The tiger did nothing wrong in this case at all,” he said.
In July, tigers at a zoo in Copenhagen killed a man who scaled a fence and crossed a moat to get into their den, and wolves at Sweden’s largest zoo killed a zookeeper in their enclosure in June.
Reporting By Mary Wisniewski and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Vicki Allen