David Villalobos, a man who was mauled by a Siberian tiger after leaping into its habitat at the Bronx Zoo in New York, pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing charges on Friday.
Villalobos, 25, jumped from the Bronx Zoo’s monorail into the tiger enclosure on Sept. 21, Reuters reported. After jumping into the tiger’s den, Villalobos spent 10 minutes there, getting mauled by a Siberian tiger named Bashuta.
Villalobos was badly injured, suffering bites or puncture wounds across his arms, back, shoulders, and legs. He also had a broken ankle, pelvis, rib, and shoulder, as well as a collapsed lung, the Associated Press reported.
Zoo workers rescued him by using a fire extinguisher to scare the tiger away.
According to Villalobos, he jumped into the tiger’s enclosure for “spiritual” reasons. Apparently, he felt he could commune with the tiger. This proved not to be the case.
"I was testing my natural fear, you would not understand," Villalobos told investigators of the incident. "It is a spiritual thing. I wanted to be at one with the tiger."
Villalobos’ attorney, Corey Sokoler, told AP his client is “a very intelligent young man. ... He knows and I know this is a very interesting human-interest story, and people have a lot of questions."
While the zoo's general director, Jim Breheny, refused to comment to AP about whether the tiger was still at the zoo, he said around the time of the incident: "The tiger did nothing wrong. ... [S]omebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves.”