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Michael Jackson's tiger Thriller dies at wildlife preserve

June 27, 2012 |  4:14 pm

Thriller, a tiger formerly owned by Michael Jackson, died of lung cancer at Tippi Hedren's wildlife preserve near Los Angeles.

A Bengal tiger that once belonged to pop icon Michael Jackson died of lung cancer at Tippi Hedren's Los Angeles-area wildlife preserve earlier this month, the actress confirmed.

The 13-year-old, 375-pound female tiger, aptly named Thriller, died June 11 at the Shambala Preserve in Acton, Hedren said. An autopsy was performed on the tiger to determine the exact cause of death.

Thriller moved to the Acton preserve with her brother, Sabu, in 2006 after Jackson left his Neverland Ranch. Jackson's veterinarian asked Hedren to take in the animals, she said.

The pair were kept in a vast, multi-acre compound on the preserve, where Sabu remains in "very good health," Hedren said.

Thriller dominated her brother, Hedren said, unlike most relationships between big cats, where the female animals are submissive to their male counterparts.

"She was about a tough a tiger as we have known here. She ruled over Sabu," Hedren said. "She was the queen. We were fascinated by her dominance."

Monday marked the third anniversary of Jackson's death.The singer had an affinity for animals — including a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles — but Hedren said Jackson never called to check on the tigers after they came to his preserve.

In 2011, the jacket worn by the singer in his "Thriller" music video was auctioned for $1.8 million, the proceeds going to Hedren to support the tigers.

"It always amazed me that Michael never called to see how they were and never made any provisions for them financially," she said. "It would have been very helpful to have had some sort of financial donation."

Still, Hedren said, her team was "very proud" of the care they provided for the tigers.

"She and Sabu both had a wonderful life," she said.

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— Kate Mather

twitter.com/katemather

Photo: Thriller, a tiger formerly owned by Michael Jackson, died of lung cancer at Tippi Hedren's wildlife preserve near Los Angeles. Credit: Bill Dow / Associated Press

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