Michael Jackson left behind an enduring musical legacy and a reputation for living a luxurious lifestyle. Though he was notoriously private, Jackson’s inner circle sometimes recalled stories about his menagerie of wild animals that he kept at his Neverland estate.
Lionel Richie once talked about his python scaring the daylights of him, but who knew Jackson had crocodiles too? The late singer’s former manager described being stunned when he saw how Jackson behaved with the reptiles.
Michael Jackson collected exotic pets at Neverland
From a young age, Michael Jackson was known for his affinity for animals. At one time he had a pet rat named Ben and befriended Bubbles, his famous chimpanzee.
The late pop star splurged his wealth on Neverland Ranch and created a private zoo on the 2,700-hundre acre property. Once upon a time, it housed tarantulas, an elephant, tigers, flamingos, a lion, and a variety reptiles.
Before Jackson’s death, he began shutting down the place and rehomed most of the creatures. Some went to animal sanctuaries and others went to public zoos.
Birds, giraffes, primates and more found new homes before he left Neverland for good in 2005. Jackson vacated the property following his trial.
Jackson’s former manager liked Neverland’s zoo except for the crocodiles
Dieter Wiesner began acting as Jackson’s manager in 2003. In 2020, he published a book titled Michael Jackson: The Real Story: An Intimate Look Into Michael Jackson’s Visionary Business and Human Side. In it, he shared one anecdote about watching Jackson play around with the crocodiles on Neverland Ranch.
He and the singer went for a walk on the grounds, and Wiesner remembered enjoying the sounds of nature and the animals around them. They made their way past the aviary, and for a moment, Jackson stopped and leaned against the fence that protected the crocodile habitat.
Wiesner recalled how Jackson suddenly jumped over the fence and sat on a boundary wall with his feet hanging above the crocodiles’ heads. He noted one of them was close to the wall near Jackson.
“I have to admit, the crocodile’s proximity to Michael’s dangling feet made me very uncomfortable,” Wiesner wrote. “On the other hand, I didn’t know if this was something Michael regularly did, and the crocodiles were used to it; therefore, I anxiously observed, with hopes Michael knew what he was doing,” he said.
The reptiles were Wiesner’s least favorite attraction at the zoo, but Jackson was very carefree and took things a step further.
A crocodile snapped at Michael Jackson
Wiesner continued to watch Jackson, who had grown adventurous and decided to launch small pebbles at the 6-foot long beasts. Worried, he told Jackson to be careful. “I asked jokingly, ‘You want to be able to continue to do the moonwalk in the future? Don’t you’ Of course, he didn’t listen,” Wiesner recalled.
And then bubbles formed in the water. Jackson had already stopped tossing gravel, but he caught the animals’ attention.
“And in the twinkling of an eye, the animal popped out of the water with its mouth open at a 90- degree angle and ferociously snapped at Michael’s feet. Just in time, Michael snatched his legs up before the croc’s mouth closed,” Wiesner wrote.
He said the sound was reminiscent of a chest slamming shut. As the croc bared its teeth and hissed, Jackson stood atop the wall, laughing it up. Though Wiesner felt stunned, he said that was Michael being Michael.