Thriller, a Bengal tiger who once belonged to pop star Michael Jackson, died of lung cancer at actress-activist Tippi Hedren’s wildlife preserve in Southern California.
The 13-year-old, 375 pound tiger died on June 11. Hedren reported the news on Wednesday after the cause of death was confirmed in a necropsy. Staff at the Shambala Preserve plan to hold a private service for Thriller and bury her ashes in a section of the sanctuary set aside for animals that die there.
Thriller and her brother Sabu were born on Nov. 20, 1998 and lived with Jackson on his Neverland Ranch until May 4, 2006.
When Jackson left Neverland after his child molestation court case, his veterinarian asked Hedren to take custody of the big cats. Since that time Thriller and Sabu have lived in a large multi-acre compound that Hedren built specially for the tigers. It had a lake, a hill to climb and lots of trees.
Unlike most tiger relationships, Thriller ruled over her brother. “She was a real piece of work, one gutsy girl,” said Hedren. “She was the queen. It was humorous to watch the whole relationship. She did things to him that male tigers would normally never allow. She would steal food from him. That’s unheard of. She ruled the roost, was very independent and tough.”
Hedren also reported that Sabu is in “very good health.”
There are 15 tigers at the preserve, but Hedren thinks Sabu will remain in his compound by himself. She said, “Tigers are loners in the wild.”
The actress also pointed out that while Michael Jackson called himself an animal lover, he never contacted Hedren to see how Thriller and Sabu were doing and he never sent money for their care.
A year after the tigers arrived, Hedren and her staff sent a package of pictures of the cats and T-shirts and other memorabilia to Jackson’s children. She said, “We never heard a word back. I just think it’s odd.”
Hedren and her team are “very proud” of the care they gave to the tigers. “She and Sabu both had a wonderful life.”
The are an estimated 10,000 – 20,000 big cats privately owned in the U.S. Many are victims of neglect and deplorable conditions. Please sign the petition to Prohibit Private Ownership Of Big Cats.
Photo Credit: Ahisgett