A man mauled by a 400-pound Siberian tiger at the Bronx Zoo after he leaped into its den pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing and was released on his own recognizance Friday.

David Villalobos, 25, of Mahopac, N.Y., made no comments during his arraignment in a Bronx courtroom.

According to the criminal complaint, the seriously injured Villalobos told an investigator afterward, "I was testing my natural fear. You would not understand. It is a spiritual thing. I wanted to be at one with the tiger."

He told another investigator: "Everyone makes choices, and we have our reasons in life why we do things."

About 3 p.m. on Sept. 21, Villalobos suddenly jumped from the zoo's elevated monorail, clearing a 16-foot-high fence. He landed inside the tiger enclosure.

After 10 minutes in the den, Villalobos was rescued by zoo workers who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away.

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Villalobos suffered bites to his arms, legs, shoulders and back, police said. He also had a broken shoulder, rib, ankle and pelvis, and a collapsed lung. Some of those injuries occurred in the fall.

A female passenger on the monorail told police that Villalobos climbed onto the safety railing directly in front of her and jumped, according to the complaint.

Defense lawyer Corey Sokoler told reporters after the arraignment that more information is needed to support the witness depositions.

Villalobos' next court appearance is scheduled for March 12.

With AP