Numerous reptiles, once owned by Michael Jackson, died last week, in what seems to be an arson case. A fire that started at Wynnewood, Oklahoma’s Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park not only killed several alligators and crocodiles, but also destroyed the park’s entire video production studio.
KRMG reports that the fire occurred on March 26, and although no one is currently a suspect, authorities believe that the fire was deliberately set by someone who knew the layout of the zoo.
The park’s owner, Joe Schreibvogel, thinks that an animal rights group is responsible. Last week, he told The Oklahoman that a long-time feud exists between him and an uncivilized animals rights group that are allegedly upset at his television show, Joe Exotic TV.
“This was personal. They targeted the studio to shut me up. They wanted to get me off the air…or else they would’ve targeted something else (in the zoo).”
Schreibvogel also states that prior to starting a fire, the perpetrators stole all of his production footage, which dated back to over 15 years.
“They left all the computers and all the other equipment. Whoever it is has all my footage…60,000 hours of footage. Everything since 1999, the day we opened, is gone.”
The Oklahoma state fire marshall took over the case, and according to Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes, the FBI is now involved in the case as well. If the case is truly arson as authorities suspect, it’s considered a federal crime under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which prohibits anyone from interfering with and/or damaging roadside zoos.
Rhodes says that no one is a suspect as of yet, and that it could take a while before the investigation concludes.
“By no means are we close to any conclusion in this investigation. But we do have a clear criminal act in this case…whereas, in the past, we haven’t always had that.”
A total of seven alligators and crocodiles died in the fire, that were “between 35 and 40 years old.” Schreibvogel says that the reptiles were taken from the late Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California and sent to his park after Jackson passed away in 2009.
“When they closed down Neverland Ranch and auctioned off his property, they asked us to come get all the reptiles and alligators and other stuff.”
Jackson, who was well-known as an animal lover, kept a multitude of exotic pets, including tigers, elephants, parrots, and more. Jackson’s most well-known pet, a chimp named Bubbles, now lives in a Florida animal sanctuary. His pet tigers, Sabu and Thriller, relocated to Los Angeles’ Shambala Preserve in 2006. Prized parrot, Rikki, who once lived inside the Neverland Ranch mansion with Michael Jackson, now lives at the Voices of the Wild Foundation, in Page, Arizona.