Man mauled by tiger after jumping into den at New York zoo

Man mauled by tiger after jumping into den at New York zooA Siberian tiger at Bronx Zoo, stock image. PA

A man visiting Bronx Zoo in New York was mauled by a tiger when he jumped into the animal's enclosure from an elevated monorail train.

NBC New York reports that the 400-pound Siberian tiger could have killed the intruder instantly, but fast-acting zoo workers rescued him using fire extinguishers to distract the tiger.

The man was alone in the den with the big cat, named Bachuta, for 10 minutes before he was saved, Bronx Director Jim Breheny said.

'Tigers are extremely capable predators. They typically grab a prey animal by the back of the neck and it's over very quickly,' Breheny said. 'This cat did not do this to the individual.'

Authorities identified the man as 25-year-old David Villabos, who suffered various bites or puncture wounds on his arms, legs and top of his shoulder on his back. Villabos also suffered a broken arm and ankle, perhaps from the 17-foot drop down from the monorail.

According to the Press Association, the incident happened in the Wild Asia exhibit, where a train with open sides takes tourists over the Bronx River and through a forest, gliding along the top edge of a fence that passes elephants, deer and the tiger pit.

Visitors are not strapped in on the rider, but Villabos apparently jumped out of his train carriage with a leap powerful enough to clear the fence.

He was then attacked by Bachuta, who has been at the zoo for three years, before it was chased off.

The 25-year-old was instructed to roll under an electric wire to get to safety.

Mr Breheny said the man was conscious and talking after the mauling.

'If not for the quick response by our staff and their ability to perform well in emergency situations, the outcome would have been very different,' he said.

Police said Villabos was taken to hospital in critical condition and authorities offered no motivation as to why he took the leap into the tiger cage.

Zoo officials said the tiger did nothing wrong and will not be put to sleep. Bachuta was put back in a holding area where it usually sleeps at night.

Watch Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny speaking about the incident, below:

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