Animal Inventory Blog

Keeping track of animals in popular culture.

What about Michael Jackson’s Chimp, Bubbles?

Posted by lisagbrown on June 29, 2009

bubblesI guess I imagined that Michael Jackson’s chimp Bubbles still lived at the Neverland Ranch, that he was a member of MJ’s menagerie, or maybe that he had an enclosure in the King of Pop’s house.  To be honest, I never gave the matter much thought until Michael Jackson died last week and I found myself thinking, what about Bubbles?

It could be said that Jackson’s purchase of Bubbles (at age 3) in 1985 marked the beginning of Jackson’s decline into increasingly eccentric behavior. Bubbles made appearances in Jackson’s videos; he was present in the recording studio as Jackson recorded his album Bad; he even accompanied Jackson on a tour of Japan and they reportedly shared a hotel room.

By Jackson’s own account, he gave up Bubbles when his son was born, fearing that the chimp may become aggressive. But the real story is less clear. Some people report that there were many young “Bubbles'” over the years, or at the very least, there were a number of different apes that lived with Jackson. According to reliable sources, the reality is that the original Bubbles actually lived for most of his life with a trainer in California. And what is clear, is that in 2005 Bubbles was moved to the Center for Great Apes sanctuary, where he currently resides.

Last week I posted an interview with Charles Siebert whose book, The Wauchula Woods Accord, chronicles the sad lives of former entertainment chimps living in America. Siebert’s chimp friend Roger lives at the same sanctuary that Bubbles does, along with more than 40 other apes. To describe the story of Bubbles is to rehash the same heartbreaking tale that has been recounted again and again and again. Adorable baby chimps are purchased by the rich and put to work as actors and entertainers. They become adult chimps very quickly who are too strong to be around humans, and are then forced to spend the rest of their 50-55 years behind bars. I can’t help but wonder what will cause these stories to change.

The photo above shows a very young Bubbles with Michael Jackson in the mid 80’s. The photo below is by Joe Zammit-Lucia (whose work I highlighted in a blog entry a few weeks ago), and shows Bubbles as he is today. Joe is offering fine archival prints of the photo for purchase, and proceeds from the sales will go directly to The Center for Great Apes, where Bubbles lives. If you are interested in purchasing a print, click here to go to Joe’s web site. Alternatively, you can make donations directly at the sanctuary’s web site. To take care of all of their apes, it costs the sanctuary $16,000 per year, per chimp ($43 per day, per chimp).  


“Bubbles” by Joe Zammit-Lucia

To learn more about The Center for Great Apes, please click here.

To specifically learn more about Bubbles, click here.


One Response to “What about Michael Jackson’s Chimp, Bubbles?”

  1. dr.Lisa Guzzardi said

    I just cannot bring myself to understand why humans insist upon feeding their “facination’ with wild but innocent animals by domesticating them. Why can’t they appreciate them in their own habitat? The problem is we do not respect the animal. We are selfish.We try as humans to fill an “exotic” void as it were in our own lives. How many people who purchase these chimps as novelties really count the cost before they do it? And when they do find out how very expensive the venture is(Emotionally as well as financially) They rush to rid themselves of a “burden” they created.
    I have four animals myself. I have 2 cats and 2 dogs. Now, when I chose these animals, I researched the breed and decided on what kind of dogs would be happy in the kind of lifetsyle I live.
    And of course….Vice versa. These fur creatures who bring joy and balance and love into my life, have become part of my family.
    It gives me great pain to hear of animals deserted by their owners for no other reason than the owner did not count the cost before engaging in the venture. If anyone is reading this please take my advice as a counselor….Count the cost before you choose any animal to become part of your family. Research the animal, and compare the compatability between yourself and the breed. It will save you and them a lot of heartache. Thank you
    from an animal lover and enthusiast,
    Dr. Lisa Guzzardi

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