UK & World News
Tiger Mauling: Man Charged Over Zoo Leap
A man who was seriously injured after jumping into a tiger enclosure at New York's Bronx Zoo has been charged with criminal trespassing.
David Villalobos is being treated in hospital for bites on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken arm, leg and pelvis and a collapsed lung after leaping from a monorail train into the den of a 180kg tiger last week.
The 25-year-old, whose condition was described as stable, has been charged after a complaint from the zoo and admitting to police that he deliberately jumped into the enclosure - without fear - because he wanted to "be one with the tiger".
It was "definitely not a suicide attempt", he told detectives.
Villalobos, who will be arrested at a later date, also recounted how, after he landed on all fours, the animal attacked him and dragged him around by his foot, according to the New York Police Department.
Despite his serious injuries, he claimed he was able to get his wish and pet the tiger - a male Siberian named Bashuta - before his rescue.
Villalobos was travelling on an open-sided train in the zoo's Wild Asia exhibit when he leapt out and over a 16ft (5m) high fence into the tiger's lair.
According to reports, the self-declared animal lover was alone with the beast for 10 minutes before being rescued by zoo officials who used a fire extinguisher to chase 11-year-old Bashuta away.
The zookeepers instructed him to roll under an electrified wire to get to safety and then called the tiger into a holding area.
Police said the estate agent was charged because he had gone "beyond a perimeter security fence and an electrified wire designed to keep the public out and the tiger in".
Commissioner Raymond Kelly said there was no evidence that Villalobos was intoxicated and described his actions as "foolish", in part because they put zoo staff "in harm's way".
Bronx Zoo, one of the America's largest zoos, has insisted the tiger did nothing wrong and will not be killed.
"When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves, it's very hard to stop that," said zoo director Jim Breheny.
"The tiger did nothing wrong."
No extra safety measures have been introduced and the zoo and its rides were operating as usual over the weekend.
Villalobos' Facebook page makes clear his infatuation with wildlife, with postings about tigers, jaguars and other animals. His page is also adorned with odes to Mother Earth and affirmations like 'Be love and fearless'.
He is reported to have taken the same train journey, which passes elephants, deer and tigers, during a visit to the zoo with a date about two weeks ago.