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Jackson's tigers still live in Acton

Sanctuary owner asks fans for donations to care for exotic beasts

Posted: July 6, 2009 9:58 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Michael Jackson's tigers Thriller and Sabu live at the Roar Foundation's Shambala Preserve in Acton.

 

As thousands of fans were set to mourn late pop legend Michael Jackson's death at Staples Center this morning, part of his legacy lives on in Acton.

Thriller and Sabu, a pair of 9-year-old Bengal tigers Jackson used to keep on his Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, will likely live out the remainder of their days in the rugged canyons north of Santa Clarita at the Roar Foundation's Shambala Preserve. And the nonprofit animal sanctuary's executive is asking for donations in the late pop singer's honor.

"Perhaps you, as Michael Jackson admirers and animal lovers, could pay homage to Michael, Thriller and Sabu by making a donation to the Roar Foundation thru www.shambala.org," the preserve's operator, actress Tippi Hedren wrote in an open letter.

The tigers were among a herd of exotic animals Jackson had amassed during his years in Neverland - giraffes, antelope, elephants, apes and big cats. He kept his exotic collection largely quiet until his finances began to crumble in 2006 and several nonprofit sanctuaries, including Shambala, had to come to their rescue.

Tippi Hedren, an actress who starred in the Alfred Hitchcock horror classic "The Birds" among other films, operates the preserve.

She told The Signal last week Shambala "rescued" the tigers from Jackson, but declined through a spokeswoman to speak further unless she could view and approve the article in which she was mentioned.

However, British newspaper The Guardian reported last week Hedren claimed she telepathically informed the tigers of Jackson's death.

And in her open letter, she wrote Jackson hadn't left any money to the sanctuary to pay for the costs of caring for his tigers.

The tigers, "as did 98 percent of the animals requiring sanctuary at the Shambala Preserve, came with no bank account or dowry. As a sanctuary, that's what we do. We rescue exotic felines who have been born in the U.S. to be sold as pets or for commercial use," Hedren wrote.

Shambala has more than 70 big cats, according to its Web site.

Jackson began giving his exotic animals to preserves once he could no longer afford veterinarians and zoologists for the beasts, said Lisa Wathne, a Seattle-based spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

His most famous animal (and frequent escort to high-profile events), Bubbles the chimpanzee, now resides in a sanctuary in Florida.

PETA began investigating Jackson after a tabloid took bird's-eye shots of the animals on his property, and the animal-advocacy organization ensured that all of the animals have been placed in sanctuaries, she said.

Wathne said she wasn't sure just how many animals Jackson had on his ranch, but couldn't think of another collection that was comparable in its extensiveness or oddity.

She added she fears some of the animals may not have been as lucky as the tigers, ending up in "less than desirable places."

"His love of children and animals was often put out there," Wathne said. "And I don't doubt that he loved animals. But as is so often the case, even people who love animals and start with good intentions ... ultimately don't have the ability to properly care for these animals. And it's always the animals who end up paying the price."

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