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Man jumps Bronx Zoo’s tiger pit; likely saved by ‘hot wire’

Posted at 2:51 AM, Sep 22, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-22 01:59:47-04

By the CNN Wire Staff

NEW YORK (CNN) - A man is in critical condition at a hospital after jumping out of a monorail car into the Bronx Zoo's tiger pit, the zoo's director said.

The man -- believed to be about 25 -- was riding on the zoo's Wild Asia monorail around 3 p.m. Friday when he jumped out of his car, "clearing the exhibit's perimeter fence," according to statement from Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny.

The facility emergency response staff arrived and used a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher to move a tiger away from the man, Breheny said. But they did not get there before the man had suffered multiple puncture wounds after being bitten by a tiger, CNN affiliates WABC and WCBS reported, citing police.

Heeding instructions, the man then rolled "under a hot wire to safety," the zoo director said. The zoo uses hot wires as training tools to keep animals away from such areas as plant beds. If the animal comes into contact with the wire, it feels a small electric shock.

Because the man followed instructions to roll under the wire, "that probably saved his life," Breheny told reporters.

He was "conscious and talking" as he was taken, by ambulance, to nearby Jacobi Medical Center.

The man was in critical condition at the hospital, according to a New York fire department spokesman, who was not named per department policy.

"I think it's safe to say that if the tiger really wanted to do harm to this individual he certainly had the time to do it," Breheny said.

Breheny said the tiger will not be put down as it "did nothing wrong."

"This is just an extraordinary occurrence that happened because ... somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves," he said.

According to the Bronx Zoo's website, the exhibit called Tiger Mountain houses Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, as well as Malayan tigers. Three cubs of each subspecies are part of the exhibit.

Situated north of Manhattan, the Bronx Zoo is the flagship park run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, a group whose mission is to "save wildlife and wild places across the globe."

CNN's Rob Frehse and Brittany Brady contributed to this report.