More Photos of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch
Although Michael Jackson’s body shut down from a suspicious drug overdose five years and a week ago, worldwide interest in the misunderstood—and by all accounts, creepy—pop superstar’s legacy is still alive and thriving, as exemplified by the interest in last week’s interview about urban exploring Neverland Ranch. We got a number of requests to release the rest of the photos taken by our crack team of photographers, and we were like Sure, why not? So here they are. Keep a look out for the blue robot. You can’t make it out, but the inscription on the robot reads, “HI KIDS! MY NAME IS ZORD. I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND. I HAVE A SPECIAL SURPRISE PICKED JUST FOR YOU. THANK YOU AND BE GOOD!”
I guess we’ll never know what Zord’s “special surprise” was.
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Burma’s Most Decadent Zoo Is Filled with Fake Animals
The city of Naypyidaw was secretly built by the Burmese military junta in the early 2000s. Its recognition as the new Burmese capital in 2005 caught everyone off-guard—both the international community and the country’s inhabitants. Shortly after the city’s inauguration, thousands of officials, military personnel, and the whole government left the former capital city, Yangon (Rangoun), to resettle 200 miles further north, in the Mandalay region. The project cost the Burmese state more than five billion dollars.
In 2012, while covering the Burmese elections in Rangoun, I took a train to the city the Burmese never really lived in. According to state documents, 930,000 people inhabit Naypyidaw, but the real figures, according to several sources, fall far below that. As soon as I got there, I realized there wasn’t a great deal to do, and ended up passing the time visiting a deserted gemstone museum, shopping in a deserted shopping center, playing golf on a deserted golf course, and visiting the city’s only zoo.
That’s how I found myself walking around Naypyidaw’s zoological garden on a very warm afternoon. Situated in the northeast of the town, between a soccer stadium that is under construction and a state-of-the-art airport (where no international company operates), Naypyidaw’s zoo reflects the megalomania that the generals in power have been nourishing since 1962. It is three miles long and shelters about 15 real animals —lions, cheetahs, a panther, two elephants, and some dolphins—alongside a number of tropical fish.
I paid for my ticket (a little over one dollar, or the average Burmese’s daily wage) and followed the only other visitors, a group of Chinese tourists. Together, in a country where barely anyone can afford a steak, we watched the lions go through several kilos of red meat. When the show was over, I approached one of the janitors. “This is Disneyland!” he told me. “Everything is artificial. It’s made to give people the impression of greatness but in reality, the whole country is in the gutter.”
An hour later and I had already walked around the whole zoo. I was sitting in the children’s park, sipping a warm Pepsi, when a group of teenagers ran by me into a huge plastic cave. I followed them and realized the place smelt like shit. Through the pen’s dirty window pane, I could make out a few sickly penguins, splashing about in stagnant water alongside floating faeces. Back in Rangoun, a friend told me that the penguins were fed fresh fish that had been flown in by plane from China—an investment that the Burmese state would never spend on its citizens.
Marineland Is a Hellhole Filled with Animal Abuse and Mass Graves
Marineland, Niagara Falls’ premier tourist destination, was opened in 1961 by John Holer. At the time, John was a portly Slovenian immigrant who couldn’t find work when he arrived to Canada. With what little money he had, and what little English he could speak, Holer built two water tanks and acquired three sea lions. When he opened Marineland’s doors, admission was 25 cents per person. In the 52 years since then, Marineland has expanded to include a large collection of animals, animal shows, and a theme park with over a dozen rides. His is the kind of story that gives one hope, and makes one look nostalgically to the past when things were simpler, right? No. According to an exposé headed by Toronto Star reporter Linda Diebel, Marineland is rife with animal neglect and poor facility conditions that have led to an ever-evolving series of depressing stories, distressing events, and grim accounts from Marineland employees. Not to mention the protests, lawsuits, and public overload of bleeding hearts.
In the original Star report, a group of former Marineland employees came forward with allegations that the park suffered from poor water quality. They also noted that the park was understaffed and mentioned several cases of animal neglect. Doesn’t sound so hellish at first, right? Well, the water in some of the facilities was turning green and causing seals to lose their vision, and one of them even had an eye pop out of its socket when it barked because the water eroded its eye lens away. Several dolphins were losing their skin, which was coming off in chunks in the pools. A baby beluga named Skoot contracted bacterial meningitis, and was then attacked by other whales that threw her into a stone wall and killed her. After that, she was pulled from the pool by two trainers and “convulsed and died in their arms.” There is even a logbook from a former Marineland supervisor, who wrote that water was coming up from a sewer near Friendship Cove that was so corrosive itate the tires off a pickup truck.
But Marineland doesn’t limit their severe conditions to aquatic animals. There are also land animals that get to feel the pain, and their problems are even more grim. According to this article, Marineland has a cramped collection of 15 bears. They share four dens and are underfed. They have to fight for corn pops, which people throw at them, and occasionally eat their own young. There was an incident where one bear was killed by four other bears as a crowd observed.