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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

More tragedy out of Michael Jackson’s death

Published 07/03/09
By Jessica Stout, Office Generalist

Amidst the sadness surrounding the death of Michael Jackson comes a grave reminder of what can become of the exotic animals that are held in captivity by even those with deep pockets and opulent holding facilities.

Michael Jackson was well known for his brood of zoo creatures, including giraffes, caimans, anacondas, tigers, and, perhaps the most well known of all, Bubbles the Chimpanzee. His collection of exotic animals garnered a lot of attention from many outlets, including the children that got to tour his facilities and play with the animals, as well as animal-rights groups who felt that he was exploiting these animals under the cloak of his celebrity.

Bubbles the Chimp was a large part of MJ’s life throughout the ’80s and part of the early ’90s. Unfortunately Bubbles, displaying stereotypical behavior of a Chimpanzee, was eventually turned over to a sanctuary due to becoming “too aggressive.” Since then, MJ’s menagerie of exotics has been divided up to several animal sanctuaries throughout the United States.

A reminder of what a Sanctuary is: a sanctuary is to help animals seek refuge from situations that were not ideal for them. That is, animals go to sanctuaries because they have been placed in situations where, for one reason or another, they cannot live in their captive environment humanely, or they are a threat to human safety due to their natural-born tendencies. The fact that few “sanctuaries” in America are actually built for the concern of the animals’ retirement, and not monetary greed, aside, the fact remains that, inevitably, most wild animals held in captivity have to eventually be relegated to a facility that is better equipped to handle them. Yes, even the animals of an international superstar. Regardless of who you are in status, or how much money you have, a wild animal’s instincts and behaviors will always prevail.

This is a strong reminder that animals are not toys, or novelties, that serve to flaunt your riches or status in society. Inevitably something will happen wherein the animal is no longer able to be properly held, either due to their behavior, or unavoidable changes in certain circumstances. Unfortunately then, the fate of the animal is uncertain at best and the animals are often not even accounted for after they have left the hands of high profile owners. Let us not forget the story of Ned, the elephant owned by amusement park chain Busch Gardens, who was then sold into the hands of a trainer that left Ned emaciated and a full ton underweight. Ned died this year due to his inability to come back after his malnourishment. This sadly is not an unusual circumstance for discarded exotic animals.

The passing of Michael Jackson not only leaves me with sadness over the loss of a music legend, but sadness over the reminder of the other daily casualties of the entertainment business.

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