Michael Jackson tried to present himself as a Dr Dolittle-type character, who loved and cared for animals. The US pop star, who died aged 50 in 2009, famously kept Bubbles the chimpanzee, who went everywhere with the star. The King of Pop also tried to demonstrate his commitment to nature in ‘Earth Song’, his 1982 hit about humans’ desecration of Earth. But Jackson’s attempts to portray himself as an animal-lover were most apparent on his 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch.
His sprawling California home included a zoo housing more than 50 species in a menagerie of more than 130 animals.
However, his exotic pets, which included giraffes, elephants, tigers and snakes, were reportedly subject to horrific abuses.
The recent ITV documentary, ‘Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp’, has uncovered how the creatures were treated and what happened to them after Jackson left Neverland in 2005.
One heart-breaking incident saw Jackson’s giraffe Jabbar die in a horrific accident involving a barn door.
The documentary’s presenter Ross Kemp tracks down Jackson’s friend and personal portrait artist, David Nordahl, who recounts the animal’s cruel death.
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Speaking to Ross on the phone, he says: “Jabbar was killed in an accident. That was really, really, really sad.
“The doors that came into the giraffe barn came loose and the door came round and broke his neck.”
David, who visited Neverland many times, spoke about the giraffe’s death after it had been moved to a larger enclosure.
Jackson imported Jabbar to California illegally in the mid-Eighties when the young animal was already eight feet tall.
But officials from the California Fish and Game Commission confiscated the giraffe after a routine visit to Neverland.
“We got a chance to have it shipped in with some other animals, and the shipper went ahead before we knew what was happening.”
However, despite moving the giraffe to a larger pen, Jackson’s animal welfare standards still left much to be desired.
In 1989, a barn at the Neverland ranch that housed three giraffes went up in flames and the animals were evacuated after nearly burning to death.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, which Fire Captain Charlie Johnson said was believed to be accidental.
Firefighters stopped the flames spreading to a nearby animal compound and a chimpanzee house.
‘Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp’ is available to stream on ITV.