Bronx Zoo Defends Tiger That Mauled Man

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 22 2012 3:30 PM

Man Who Was Mauled in Bronx Zoo "Wanted To Be One With the Tiger"

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A Siberian tiger

Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/GettyImages

UPDATE: The 25-year-old who jumped in the tiger den at the Bronx Zoo “wanted to be one with the tiger,” police said Saturday, according to the Associated Press. David Villalobos apparently told police that he fulfilled his wish of petting the Siberian named Bashuta. After those admissions, as well as a complaint from the zoo, the real estate agent will likely be arrested.

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2 p.m.: Bashuta, the 400-pound tiger, “did nothing wrong” and will not be euthanized, Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said. Hard to disagree with that. New York Police said Saturday that David Villalobos made a conscious decision to jump from an elevated train into the tiger’s den Friday, reports the Associated Press.

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When police asked Villalobos why he would jump 17 feet into the tiger den, his response was simple: “Everybody in life makes choices.” The 25-year-old remains in the hospital with bite wounds on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken arm and ankle but is in stable condition. He was saved by zoo staff who used a fire extinguisher to chase the tiger away.

Breheny said it didn’t seem like the 11-year-old tiger actually tried killing Villalobos, who was alone in the enclosure for about 10 minutes. "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."

Friends say he had been posting odd Facebook messages lately, reports NBC.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.