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Sale of 'Thriller' jacket to benefit Jackson's tigers

By Michael Cary, CNN Senior Producer
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'Thriller' jacket helping Jackson tigers
  • Some proceeds from the auction of the red-and-black jacket will go to a wildlife sanctuary
  • The sanctuary has housed and fed the singer's two Bengal tigers for the past five years
  • A 22,000-square-foot compound was created for the littermates before their arrival

(CNN) Acton, California -- When Michael Jackson's "Thriller" jacket sells at the end of the month for an expected hundreds of thousands of dollars, two of the singer's tigers -- Sabu and the aptly named Thriller -- stand to benefit.

Some of the proceeds from the auction of the red-and-black jacket Jackson donned while dancing with zombies will go to theShambala Preserve, a Southern California wildlife sanctuary that has housed and fed the singer's two Bengal tigers for the past five years.

"It's thrilling," says Tippi Hedren, founder and president of The Roar Foundation, the non-profit that runs the Shambala Preserve.

"This is a wonderful gift to us to help with the support of Thriller and Sabu, and it will help the other animals as well," Hedren tells CNN. Her name may sound familiar as one of Alfred Hitchock's lead blonde actresses, starring in "The Birds" and "Marnie." For nearly 40 years, she's been an avid advocate for exotic felines and is presently seeking to ban their sales and breeding in the United States.

Money from the "Thriller" jacket's sale will be extremely helpful, Hedren says, because the 40-acre facility that currently houses 54 large cats, including lions, leopards and cougars, is run solely on donations. She says it costs approximately $75,000 a month to keep the place going, and hat includes providing about 450 pounds of meat to the furry predators each day.

Hedren says Thriller and Sabu arrived at Shambala Preserve in 2006 based upon a recommendation made by Jackson's veterinarian. At the time, the singer decided to leave Neverland Ranch after his acquittal on child molestation charges, and he needed to find new homes for his menagerie.

Before their arrival, Hedren says a 22,000-square-foot compound was created for the littermates, including access to the preserve's lake. Over the years, she says she's grown accustomed to the duo's very different personalities. Suffice it to say, Thriller's got attitude.

"She can be a very, very feisty girl," Hedren says of Thriller. "She doesn't like everybody, and she lets them know that as well."

"If she doesn't want someone around ... she puts a little Garbo act on," Hedren says, comparing the tigress to the famously reclusive actress Greta Garbo.

"Sabu is much more laid back and he just quietly watches her, sometimes from afar," Hedren adds.

In fact, when CNN arrived at the compound to videotape the tigers, Sabu was reclining outside their wooden shelter, while Thriller stayed hidden inside. She finally peered out after about 20 minutes of quietly waiting.

"Michael would be happy to know that a portion of the proceeds are going to benefit two animals that he loved," says Darren Julien, president of Julien's Auctions. The bidding will take place over the weekend of June 25th, which is the second anniversary of Jackson's death.