How did Michael Jackson die? How to watch Ross Kemp’s Searching For Michael Jackson’s Zoo documentary on TV

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A new ITV documentary seeks to find out what happened to the animals owned by Michael Jackson at his Neverland Ranch

Neverland Ranch was the lavish home and private amusement park of the king of pop, Michael Jackson until 2009.

The ranch contained three railroads as well as several rides including a pirate ship, bumper cars, and a ferris wheel - and a zoo.

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By the time that the ranch was put up for sale after Jackson died - all the zoo animals of which there were 50 different species - were gone.

In the ITV documentary Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo, actor and presenter Ross Kemp sets out to discover what happened to the animals of Neverland Ranch after Jackson’s death.

How did Michael Jackson die?

Michael Jackson died in 2009 aged 50, from a cardiac arrest.

The coroner ruled Jackson’s death a homicide and in November 2011 Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for improperly administering an anaesthetic - Murray was sentenced to four years and served two.

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What happened to the animals at Michael Jackson’s zoo?

After his acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005, Jackson left his ranch and never returned to live there.

The fate of many of Jackson’s animals since 2005 has been something of a mystery, although it’s likely that at least some of them will still be alive.

During the documentary, Kemp discovered that several of Jackson’s big pets died prematurely - two giraffes died in a barn fire, another died from a broken neck when a barn door slammed into it.

After Jackson left Neverland many of his animals were bought by private collectors - some of whom had little experience in handling big pets - and others were rehomed in sanctuaries and zoos across the US.

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One of Jackson’s elephants, Baba, is now owned by one of the Neverland trainers who told Kemp that he regretted how the animals were treated at the ranch.

Ross Kemp speaks to the owner of one of Michael Jackson’s elephants Ross Kemp speaks to the owner of one of Michael Jackson’s elephants
Ross Kemp speaks to the owner of one of Michael Jackson’s elephants | ITV

Kemp also discovered that many of the animals experienced poor treatment and conditions even when Jackson still lived at Neverland.

In one instance a chimp expert who visited the ranch told Jackson that the enclosures he used were too small and that infants and their mothers should not be separated, as was the practice at Neverland.

Kemp also heard that bears were trained to ride in bumper cars and golf carts at the ranch.

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Who owns Neverland Ranch now?

In 2016 the 2,698-acre ranch was put up for sale for $100 million, but the asking price fell to $67 million due to a lack of interest.

The asking price for the property and grounds continued to fall until billionaire Ronald Burkle bought it for $22 million in 2020.

Burkle has been a family friend of Jackson and stated that he bought the property as a land banking opportunity.

What happened Michael to Jackson’s chimpanzee Bubbles?

Bubbles was a chimpanzee bought by Jackson from a Texas research facility in the 1980s.

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The animal was moved to an animal sanctuary in 2003 due to concerns that he might attack Jackson’s newborn son.

Bubbles is still alive and now lives with a group of other chimpanzees at the sanctuary, the Center for Great Apes, in Florida.

How to watch Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo on TV

The episode aired on ITV on 27 April and is available to watch on ITV Hub following its first broadcast.

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