Everybody has a big wish — and all David Villalobos wanted to do was pet a big tiger.
Well, he got to pet that tiger Friday. And all it cost him was his foot, his health, and probably a nice big fine by the time the New York Police Department finishes with him.
The tiger fanatic told police how he landed on all fours and the tiger attacked him and dragged him around by his foot — big surprise there, right? But NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said he got his wish and he got to pet the male Siberian tiger, Bashuta, before rescuers pulled him away.
Bashuta isn’t in trouble. It’s hardly his fault some tiger stalker jumped into his den. But Villalobos is in a heap of legal woes and it doesn’t look like he’ll have a leg to stand on.
Okay, he still has one leg.
1. Villalobos Loves Mother Earth — A Lot
Villalobos’ Facebook page shows his extreme love of wildlife and of nature. On Thursday, the day before he jumped into the tiger den, he posted a photo of a mother tiger licking her cub, commenting “Nice.” An earlier post showed a promo for a movie called “Facing Animals” which explores the complex relationship between men and animals, and he commented “This looks fascinating.”
Under religion, he wrote “Mother Earth.” And on Thursday, he posted approximately 20 “Mother Earth” type items — but he only has one photo of himself, where well-wishers are speaking to him, including this friend:
Get some help bro. This stunt put your life, the zoo keepers and a majestic animal’s in jeopardy. No religion is worth this. Be a Darwin survivor, not a victim. Get well.
2. He’s a Real Estate Agent
When he’s not leaping from monorails, Villalobos sells real estate in the competitive New York market, according to his Linked In profile. Police said it’s not clear, though, if he has an attorney, despite his profession.
3. He Jumped on Purpose
“Everyone has a reason for what they do in life,” he told police at the scene. But on Saturday, he told detectives “his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger.”
4. He’s Got Extensive Injuries
Apparently the tiger wanted to be one too — or at least have one or more of Villalobo’s limbs. He’s got bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back and he broke his arm and leg jumping into the pen. He was in critical condition Friday, but by Saturday was able to answer some of the detective’s questions.
5. He Took a Human Date There Two Weeks Ago
Villalobos’ walk on the wild side began with a ride on the elevated train that goes over the zoo’s Wild Asia exhibit, which is open as usual despite the incident. The train goes along the the top of a fence past elephants, deer and the tiger enclosure — a fun date indeed, and judging from his photos, Villalobos is a pretty good looking guy — or he was until the tiger got hold of him. Nobody’s saying who the young lady was — or if she knew what he was planning.
6. It’s Not Easy to Be One With a Tiger
Villalobos jumped out of the train car and cleared the 16-foot-high fence put up to keep the tigers in and humans out. And he ended up alone with Bashuta for about 10 minutes before zoo officials got him out. They had to use a fire extinguisher to chase Bashuta away.
Zoo Director Jim Breheny said zookeepers told Villalobos to roll under the electrified fence and then they got the tiger into a holding area.
7. He’s Facing Criminal Charges
Police said they’re charging the tiger jumper with trespassing, even though he remains in the hospital. Trespassing doesn’t carry much of a fine, but it’s likely the judge will tell Villalobos to talk with someone about his issues — someone human, not from the animal kingdom.
8. The Tiger Took It Easy on Him
Breheny said if Bashuta had wanted to, he could have killed Villalobos. Instead, it appears the big cat used him as a really large catnip mouse.
“Tigers are extremely capable predators. What they typically do is grab a prey animal either by the head or by the back of the neck, and it’s over very quickly. This cat did not do this to the individual. I think it was just the tiger’s response and the fact we got there so quickly that saved the guy’s life.”
9. Luckily There Was Only One Tiger
Bachuta has been at the zoo for about three years and is one of 10 tigers that live at the 43-acre Wild Asia exhibit, which is visible only from the monorail. On Friday, only Bachuta was on display.
10. Bachuta Will be Okay — But Not One With Villalobos
Breheny insisted that Bashuta did just what a tiger would normally do, and he’ll remain at the zoo.
“When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves, it’s very hard to stop that. The tiger did nothing wrong.