Man Mauled After Leaping into Bronx Zoo Tiger Den in Stable Condition

A 400-pound Siberian tiger could have killed the man in an instant but did not

A 25-year-old man who jumped from a monorail train into a tiger den at the Bronx Zoo is in stable condition after being mauled by a 400-pound tiger.

A hospital spokeswoman says the family of David Villalobos asks that no other information be provided.

Villalobos jumped out of the Bronx Zoo's monorail into the tiger exhibit Friday afternoon, where he was mauled by a Siberian tiger before zoo employees rescued him by using fire extinguishers to distract the big cat, zoo officials said.

The tiger named Bachuta could have killed Villalobos in an instant but fast-acting zoo workers were able to rescue him after he had been in the enclosure for about 10 minutes, Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said.

"Tigers are extremely capable predators: They typically grab a prey animal by the back of the neck and it's over very quickly," Breheny said. "This cat did not do this to the individual."

Authorities identified the jumper as David Villalobos. Villalobos, who is from Mahopac, suffered "various bites or puncture wounds on his arms and legs and also the top of his shoulder on his back,"  Breheny said. He also suffered a broken arm and ankle, perhaps from the 17-foot drop off the monorail.

Around 3:30 p.m., Villalobos took a flying leap off the last car of the zoo's Wild Asia Monorail, a slow-moving train with open sides that takes visitors along the zoo's tree tops to peer down on the wild creatures below.  His leap went unnoticed by most others on the monorail.

He was able to clear a perimeter fence -- an athletic feat that was a first in the history of the monorail, authorities said -- and land in the tiger enclosure.  Bachuta, an 11-year-old Siberian tiger weighing more than 400 pounds then mauled Villalobos.

The zoo's staff was able to chase Bachuta off by spraying a fire extinguisher. Once the tiger backed away, the zoo staff yelled at the man, instructing him to roll under an electrified perimeter wire to safety, Breheny said.

The keepers then called the tiger into its holding area and secured him there, Breheny said.

Once the tiger was contained, EMTs rushed to the scene and treated the man, officials said. He was conscious and talking as he was taken to the hospital by ambulance, Breheny said.  Initial reports from law enforcement authorities indicated that Villalobo lost his foot, but this was not the case.

"If the tiger really wanted to do harm to this individual he certainly would have had the time to do that," said Breheny.

The tiger "did nothing wrong" Breheny said, and will not be put down.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said that when a responding police officer asked Villalobos why he did it, the victim responded, ``Everybody in life makes choices.''

Villalobos' Facebook page lists "Mother Earth" as his religion and features many photos of lions, tigers and other wildlife.  A former coworker at Bond New York, the real estate firm where Villalobos worked until a few months ago, said he was a "good guy".

A former classmate noted that Villalobos seemed to be more eccentric on his Facebook account as of late.

"Recently I saw some of the stuff he wrote on Facebook and it seemed a little strange," Paul Giarraputo told NBC 4 New York. "He wrote a lot of deep emotional things -- very religious, spiritual.  I wouldn't say depressing.  He was very in tune with his mind and religion." 

Earlier this month, Amur tiger triplets debuted at the Bronx Zoo, born to mother Katharina and father Sasha.

Zoo tiger attacks, while rare, can be deadly. In 1985, a zookeeper, Robin Silverman, 24, was killed when she was attacked by two Siberian tigers at the Bronx Zoo while trying to clean their cage.

Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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