Man mauled by tiger at Bronx Zoo pleads not guilty to trespassing; ‘I wanted to be at one with the tiger’

Posted Jan. 12, 2013, at 10:13 a.m.

NEW YORK — A man who was mauled after leaping into a Siberian tiger’s den at the Bronx Zoo in September pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing charges on Friday.

David Villalobos, 25, jumped off of the zoo’s elevated monorail and into the tiger enclosure on the afternoon of Sept. 21, according to the criminal complaint against him. He was released until his next court appearance on March 12, a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney’s office said.

Villalobos said he jumped into the tiger’s den for spiritual reasons.

“I was testing my natural fear,” Villalobos said, according to the complaint. “I wanted to be at one with the tiger.”

During his ten minutes with a 400-pound (180-kg) Siberian tiger named Bashuta, he sustained multiple bites or puncture wounds on his arms, legs and shoulder. The zoo’s emergency workers rescued him by scaring the tiger away with a fire extinguisher.

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