Man mauled by tiger at NYC zoo pleads not guilty to trespassing charges

Jim Fitzgerald, The Associated Press

A man who jumped into a tiger den at New York City's largest zoo and survived a mauling pleaded not guilty to trespassing charges Friday.

"I was testing my natural fear. You would not understand," David Villalobos told an investigator after the incident last year.

Villalobos was released until another court appearance March 12, the Bronx district attorney's office said.

The 25-year-old had told investigators his Sept. 21 leap was not a suicide attempt but "a desire to be one with the tiger."

Villalobos jumped from a monorail car that tours the Bronx Zoo's Wild Asia exhibit and was attacked by a 400-pound (181-kilogram) Siberian tiger. He suffered bites on his arms, legs, shoulders and back and had a broken right shoulder, right rib, right ankle and pelvis and a collapsed lung.

Villalobos was alone with the tiger for about 10 minutes before he was rescued by workers who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away.

Zoo director Jim Breheny said at the time, "The tiger did nothing wrong. ... somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves."

A call to Villalobos' attorney, Corey Sokoler, was not immediately returned Friday.