Man Hospitalized After Jumping into Bronx Zoo Tiger Den

Man who jumped into tiger den in New York lost foot, among other injuries.

September 21, 2012, 4:43 PM

Sept. 21, 2012 — -- A man was hospitalized after apparently jumping off an electric monorail ride and over an electric fence into the tiger den at New York's Bronx Zoo this afternoon.

The victim, who zoo officials said was approximately 25 years old, suffered multiple wounds, including tiger bites and fractures, according to Emergency Medical Services and police. Among the injuries were a deep wound to the back, a tiger bite to the right ankle that possibly caused a fracture and a right knee injury.

Earlier, police said the man had to have a foot amputated, but officials later said that was not the case.

Sources told WABC-TV in New York that the man was David Villalobos, 25, of Mahopac, N.Y., which is in Putnam County, north of New York City.

His condition at Jacobi Medical Center was upgraded from critical to stable late Friday, a Jacobi spokeswoman told WABC, without elaborating on his injuries.

The zoo released a statement today saying the man jumped off the Wild Asia Monorail ride he was on at approximately 3 p.m., cleared the tiger exhibit's perimeter fence, and ended up in the tiger habitat.

"Our emergency response staff immediately went to the site and used a CO2 fire extinguisher to move the tiger away from the person," the statement read. "Once the tiger backed off, the man was instructed to roll under a hot wire to safety. The keepers were able to call the tiger into its off-exhibit holding area and safely secured the animal."

Zoo director Jim Breheny told reporters the man was in the tiger area exposed to the tiger for approximately 10 minutes. He remained in the area receiving first aid after the tiger was secured.

"I think it's safe to say that if the tiger really wanted to do harm to this individual, he certainly would have had the time to do that," Breheny said.

The man was conscious and able to talk, the zoo's initial statement said, but was taken to a hospital by ambulance.

"We honestly think that we're providing a safe experience and this is just an extraordinary event," Breheny said. "He made a deliberate effort to get over the fence. It's not by accident that this happened."

Asked if the man was emotionally disturbed, a police official said, "It certainly appears that way."

"The tiger was minding his own business," New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said, "up until the man cleared two sets of fences to get into the enclosure."

Breheny identified the tiger involved as Bachuta, an approximately 11-year-old, 400-pound, male Siberian tiger.

"The tiger did nothing wrong in this episode," Breheny said, adding that the tiger would remain on exhibit at the zoo.

"We did not have to use deadly force, but we were prepared to do so if we had to," Breheny said. "This is the first incident of its kind. ... When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves, it is very difficult to stop them."

ABC News' Courtney Condron and Michael S. James contributed to this report.

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