(NEW YORK) — A man who was mauled by a 400-pound tiger after deliberately jumping into its den at New York’s Bronx Zoo is recovering from critical injuries, as friends and family try to understand what was behind his baffling behavior.
On Friday, David Villalobos, 25, jumped 17-feet off an electric monorail ride and over an electric fence into the tiger den, suffering bite wounds on his arms, legs shoulders and back, as well as a broken ankle and arm.
“Recently I saw some of his stuff on Facebook and it just seemed a little strange,” a former classmate of Villalobos told ABC News.
Quick thinking rescuers used powerful fire hoses to distract Bachuta, an approximately 11-year-old, 400-pound, male Siberian tiger, and pull Villalobos to safety.
“Our emergency response staff immediately went to the site and used a CO2 fire extinguisher to move the tiger away from the person,” the zoo said in a statement released Friday. “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.”
As of Friday night, Villalobos’ condition has been upgraded to stable condition, according to officials from Jacobi Medical Center, where he is being treated.
Zoo director Jim Breheny told reporters Friday Villalobos was in the tiger area exposed to the tiger for approximately 10 minutes. He remained conscious and 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. “We honestly think that we’re providing a safe experience and this is just an extraordinary event. 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.”
The tiger will remain on exhibit at the zoo. “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,” Brehny said.
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