It's hard to shock New Yorkers, who've been everywhere and seen it all. But lots of us were shocked yesterday afternoon when a man jumped from the Bronx Zoo monorail into the tiger pen. People commiting suicide by jumping in front of subways cars? Everyone is affected eventually. But getting mauled by a jungle cat is a special brand of crazy we've never seen.
Police have identified the man as David Villalobos, a 25-year-old from Mahopac, New York, who, around 3 in the afternoon, climbed out of the Wild Asia train and leapt 17 feet down into the zoo's tiger pen. The tigers — including three cubs — were sleeping at the time. But an 11-year-old male Amur tiger named Bachuta awoke and attacked Villalobos, chewing his back, puncturing his lung, and mauling his foot. "The tiger did nothing wrong," the Bronx Zoo director said in a press conference. In fact, Bachuta acted quite naturally, he explained: tigers are fierce predators and will kill their prey quite quickly.
For some reason, that day, David Villalobos was lucky: The New York Post reports he spent about 10 minutes in the pen with Bachuta before zoo personnel were able to scare the big cat off with a CO2 fire extinguisher. Villalobos was instructed to roll underneath a hot wire for safety.
When Bachuta was corralled inside a safe area, emergency personnel were able to get to Villalobos, who said he had been trying to commit sucide.
Villalobos is now being held at a New York hospital in critical condition. I, for one, am relieved the tiger wasn't injured or euthanized because of the attack. The poor thing was probably terrified, on top of the fact it had three cubs to defend.