Actress Tippi Hedren, who adopted Michael Jackson’s two tigers at her Los Angeles area preserve, is urging animal lovers to mourn the late King of Pop by helping captive big cats.
Hedren, best known for her roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Marnie, took in Jackson’s tigers Thriller and Sabu in 2005 as the pop icon’s life unraveled and he gave up his private zoo at Neverland.
Hedren said she broke the news of Jackson’s death to the tigers at her Shambala Preserve, which is home to 68 tigers, lions and other big cats retired from the entertainment industry or unwanted as pets.
“I went up and sat with them for a while and let them know that Michael was gone,” Hedren told AFP.
“You don’t know what mental telepathy exists from the human to the animal,” she said. “But I hope they understood.”
Hedren said Jackson had treated the tigers “beautifully” at Neverland.
But she hoped his death would lead fans to donate to her preserve and help build momentum for a bill she is seeking in Congress that would ban the breeding in the US of big cats to be pets.
By her calculation, captive big cats have killed or permanently maimed nearly 600 people in the US in the past five years.
“You’re taking an apex predator and saying, ‘Let’s make a pet out of him.’ It’s insanity,” she said.
“We’re hoping very much that people will wake up and say, of course, it’s nonsense to keep these animals as pets,” she said.
Hedren pressed for a bill approved by Congress in 2003 that bans the interstate trade of big cats as pets.
But she said efforts to ban the breeding of the big cats entirely was a bone of contention with the circus industry.
Michael Jackson’s private zoo has been dispersed to sanctuaries and individuals since his financial problems multiplied.
His beloved chimpanzee, Bubbles, is living at the Center for Great Apes, a Florida sanctuary which is also appealing for donations from Jackson fans.(AFP)