David Villalobos jumped 17 feet off the zoo's electric monorail line and over an electric fence into the tiger pit on Friday. He was mauled, suffering bites to his arms, legs, shoulders and his back.
Villalobos told New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne that despite his serious injuries, he was able to pet the tiger before zookeepers came to his rescue. Browne said Villalobos will be arrested and charged with trespassing.
During a police interview at the hospital on Saturday, Villalobos told detectives that "his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger," Browne said.
Zoo director Jim Breheny said the tiger isn't to blame for the incident. Breheny said Villalobos was alone with a 400-pound male Siberian tiger named Bashuta for about 10 minutes before he was rescued.
Bashuta was returned to a holding area where it usually sleeps at night and will not be euthanized, zoo officials said. Bashuta is 11 years old and has been at the zoo for three years.
There are 10 tigers at the zoo's Wild Asia exhibit, but Bashuta was the only one on display at the time. There are no surveillance cameras in that area of the exhibit.
In 2007, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo had to be put down after it killed one person and mauled two others when it escaped from its compound.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.