David M. Villalobos, a 25-year-old realtor from Mahopac, New York, yesterday jumped 17′ from a Bronx Zoo monorail into the Siberian tiger pen. After his rescue, Villalobos informed police that he “wanted to be one with the tiger.”
Mr. Villalobos describes himself on Facebook as “a Messenger of the Return of the Divine Mother.” He listed under his Religious Views: “Mother Earth.” Villalobos goes on to tell his readers: “Fear is irrelevant, there is no greater bliss than living in My Divine Light and in the Womb of My Unconditional Love.”
Naturally, a 400 lb. male tiger named Bachuta mistook Mr. Villalobos for a new toy, and proceeded to play with him. Villalobos wound up with “bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken right shoulder, right rib, right ankle and pelvis, and a collapsed lung.” Zoo workers were able to rescue him by using fire hoses to distract the tiger, and instructing Villalobos to roll to safety.
Villalobos was upgraded to stable from critical condition at the hospital, but will be charged with trespass.
His Facebook page.
It seems clear that the combination of the exploitation by the entertainment industry of charismatic predators in nature films and the sentimental emotionalism of the modern cult of Nature worship with some regularity impact impressionable people so strongly as to produce a mental disorder we might refer to as Theraphilia, “the passionate love of, and self identification with, large, dangerous animals.”
The victim of Theraphilia becomes obsessed with some large predator, and gets so carried away with admiration and affection that he comes to believe that one of the most dangerous killers in the wild is going to love him back. He insists on getting himself into the immediate proximity of his favored critter, talking to it, and trying to touch and pet it, and he eventually winds up, as the famous Timothy Treadwell did, as the main course for lunch.
It’s not likely that any individual seriously afflicted with this pattern of delusion is going to be cured. The victims derive too much emotional gratification, and place too much personal dependency, on their fantasy. The real root of the problem is cultural. It is extremely profitable to purvey misleading, sentimentalist natural images and story lines, both commercially and in the course of fund raising for environmentalism and preservation. Consequently, contemporary culture will inevitably continue to be awash with feel-good images and stories peddling anthropomorphic notions of animal behavior, all laying the foundation for uncritical self-identification and emotional involvement with animals by neurotics.