On Friday afternoon, a man was mauled by a tiger after he jumped out of the Bronx Zoo’s Wild Asia Monorail and into a tiger den. Authorities initially believed that David Villalobos, 25, jumped on purpose because he "wanted to die." But from his hospital bed, Villalobos told police yesterday that he wasn't suicidal at all—when asked why he jumped, he said “everybody in life makes choices,” adding that he wanted "to be one with the tiger."
Villalobos, who was mauled by an 11-year-old male Amur tiger named Bachuta, suffered a broken right shoulder, right ankle, right rib and pelvis and a collapsed lung in the incident. “He recalled being dragged by the tiger by the foot, and afterwards being able to pet the tiger,” Browne said. “No surprise he landed on all fours considering his passion for cats." Doctors installed a metal rod through Villalobos’ foot, so he won't lose it despite being chewed by the tiger.
Browne dryly noted in an email to the Times that Villalobos appeared to have a “passion for cats.” Police now believe the stunt may have been planned—Villalobos told cops he rode the monorail over the tiger preserve two weeks ago with his girlfriend. He has been charged with trespassing, and issued a desk appearance ticket.
Villalobos’ former boss at V-Note, a vegan restaurant on the Upper East Side, described Villalobos as a strict vegan with a nature-centric world view: “He was very much into his own belief system—into taking care of himself and the world,” V-Note’s general manager Chris O’Neill told the News. “Everyone takes care of Mother Earth,” O’Neill said of Villalobos’ world view.