People streamed back into the Bronx Zoo and its monorail this weekend after law-enforcement authorities decided changes to security procedures were unnecessary following serious injuries suffered by a man who jumped into the tiger den.
The man, David Villalobos, 25 years old, told New York City police that he wasn't trying to commit suicide when he jumped from the monorail into an enclosed area with a tiger named Bachuta. Mr. Villalobos wanted "to be one with the tiger," which then attacked him, said Paul Browne, a police spokesman.
Mr. Villalobos, of Mahopac, N.Y., was in stable condition at a Bronx hospital after suffering a broken right shoulder, broken right rib, broken right ankle, broken pelvis and collapsed a lung as a result of the jump, Mr. Browne said. He wasn't intoxicated, police said. He was charged with trespassing and must appear in court at a date to be determined, police said. Calls to his cell phone and his home were not returned Sunday.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called Mr. Villalobos' actions "foolish," adding that the rescue put zoo employees "in harm's way." Police said the incident didn't merit additional security measures at the zoo, one of the nation's largest, or its monorail.
One safety expert questioned whether the zoo had enough security to prevent the incident. "Was there some precaution that they should have taken to prevent him from doing that? Obviously, or he wouldn't have gotten in," said Sandy Smith, editor-in-chief of Environment Health and Safety Today, an online magazine about safety standards. "But I think it's one of those things where you would never imagine anyone doing that."
A zoo spokeswoman declined to comment on Ms. Smith's assessment and pointed to a statement issued last week by zoo director Jim Breheny, noting that staff responded quickly with emergency protocols and "were able to prevent a bad situation from turning into a real tragedy."
On Sunday afternoon, a long line formed outside the zoo's Wild Asia monorail. Visitors said they didn't have safety concerns following the incident. Cars have safety guards, and a sign states that standing isn't permitted.
"Neither one of us is jumping into a tiger den, so I think we're safe," said Mike Sweeney, 50, of Rifton, N.Y., an attorney who was at the zoo with his 7-year-old son Jonah.
But Laura Laird, 44, of Branchburg, N.J., said the incident came to mind when she rode the rail earlier that day. "I felt a little nervous just going by the tiger area, just thinking about what happened to the person," she said.
It is about a 17 foot drop from the monorail into the tiger enclosure, which is surrounded by electrified wires. Mr. Villalobos made the jump on Friday afternoon and landed on all fours next to the tiger
Mr. Villalobos told police he remembered the tiger dragging him by his right ankle but also allowed him to pet it, Mr. Browne said. Asked why he did it, Mr. Villalobos told the segeant "everyone in life makes choices," Mr. Browne said. He told police he had ridden the monorail over the tiger preserve two weeks earlier with his girlfriend.
He told police that most of his injuries came from the jump, not the tiger, Mr. Browne said.