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Man who jumped into tigers' den wanted to be 'one with the tiger'

Sunday, September 23, 2012 | 9:27 AM    

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NEW YORK, USA (AP) — Before his now-infamous tangle with a Bronx Zoo tiger, David Villalobos adorned his Facebook page with New Age odes to Mother Earth and affirmations like, "Be love and fearless."

Police said yesterday that Villalobos had told detectives that it was without fear that he leaped from an elevated train into the animal's den. His reason, they said, was that he “wanted to be one with the tiger."

Villalobos also recounted how, after he landed on all fours, the 400-pound beast attacked him and dragged around by his foot, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. Despite serious injuries, he claimed he was able to get his wish and pet the tiger — a male Siberian named Bashuta — before his rescue, the spokesman added.

Based on those admissions and a complaint from the zoo, police charged the hospitalised Villalobos with misdemeanour trespassing yesterday. It was unclear if the 25-year-old real estate agent had an attorney, and attempts to reach relatives were unsuccessful.

Villalobos' big-cat exploits Friday afternoon were an instant tabloid sensation: A front page New York Post story on yesterday was headlined "MAULED!" The Daily News countered with "ZOO-ICIDE," speculating a death wish.

Police had said earlier that Villalobos admitted to a police officer at the scene that he made a conscious decision to jump — "Everyone has a reason for what they do in life," he was quoted as saying — but that his motives were murky and an arrest uncertain.

That changed when, during a follow-up interview yesterday, Villalobos told detectives that "his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger," Browne said.

Browne said Villalobos 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."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly described Villalobos' actions as "foolish," in part because they put zoo personnel "in harm's way."

Villalobos remained hospitalised with bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken right shoulder, right rib, right ankle and pelvis and a collapsed lung. Police said there was no indication he was intoxicated.

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