Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp 1 May 2022: Sunday on ITV
“A rich star’s plaything and status symbol, Michael Jackson’s Zoo inspired a worldwide boom in the private ownership of exotic animals. This is a journey that will take me into the strange world of America’s private zoos and menageries and the often-cruel trade that supplies them.”
“So, I want to find out how Jackson’s pets were treated at the ranch, where they went after it closed and what Neverland’s animal legacy truly is.” Ross Kemp
Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp investigates the animals once owned by pop star Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch housed at least 50 different species of animals, including giraffes, elephants and tigers. Their whereabouts have been largely unknown since the singer’s death in 2009.
Ross Kemp takes us on a journey across America in search of these exotic species and uncovers the truth behind what happened to these much beloved animals who called Neverland home for years.
Michael Jackson always had a passion for animals, most notably his chimpanzee, Bubbles. In speaking to primatologist Jane Goodall, he learns what exactly happened to the famous pet.
Ross speaks to former workers at the famous Californian ranch, including Mark Biancaniello, a former Neverland Zoo trainer, who describes Jackson as an exemplary owner of animals and who would never abandon his pets. But after learning about the premature deaths of several animals during the singer’s time at Neverland, the presenter begins to suspect that Jackson may not have been the perfect animal owner.
Ross’s investigation sees him travel to the northern Arizona desert, Utah and Florida, as it becomes apparent that the fate of some of Jackson’s former pets is shrouded in mystery, scandal or tragedy.
On the trail of the Thriller star’s missing animals, Kemp discovers that two of Jackson’s elephants were initially acquired from a man in South Africa who was convicted of animal cruelty. Amongst the techniques he employed to tame the animals was his use of the bullhook, a pole with a sharp hook on the end. Bull hooks are now banned in several American states. But through an interview with Jackson’s former elephant trainer, he discovers that the instruments were still used on the animals during their time at Neverland. Kemp finds one of the elephants now living a very different life with the former trainer and locates the other in a Florida zoo.
With exclusive behind the scenes footage of Neverland, Ross is able to see how the animals were treated at the time and speaks to those in the know and present at the time – he even catches up with former Neverland trainers.
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About the Show
This show is broadcast on ITV.