People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has become the latest group proposing using Neverland Ranch for a pet project. In PETA’s case, an animal sanctuary for rescued exotic animals. In a letter sent Monday to Michael Jackson’s children, Prince Michael Jackson, 14, and Paris Jackson, 13, Michelle Cho, special projects manager for PETA, urged them to use the 2,700-acre spread on Figueroa Mountain Road as a wildlife sanctuary “where animals can be properly taken care of instead of a zoo, where people are encouraged to gawk at imprisoned animals in the name of profit.”

PETA’s request follows reports that the late singer’s children have expressed an interest in buying the property when they are older and turning it into “some kind of community park and center for animals.”

Neverland Ranch once served as a menagerie that included monkeys, giraffes, macaws, an African bull elephant, reptiles, tigers and other animals. Although some animal rights activists criticized Jackson for keeping them at his personal zoo, PETA praised him in the recent letter, particularly for “his notable affection for his chimpanzee companion, Bubbles.”

“We praised your father for having made the responsible decision to relocate Bubbles to a true sanctuary where he could live with other primates,” Cho stated. “By turning Neverland into a sanctuary, you could both honor your father’s memory and provide a safe haven for animals like Bubbles — while also educating the public about the plight of captive exotic animals.”

The letter was copied to Thomas Barrack Jr., chairman of Colony Capital LLC, the private equity firm that owns the ranch. Barrack has not commented on PETA’s proposal, or on specifically what he has in store for the land. Last month he told Bloomberg TV that the firm plans to restore the property to its “original greatness.” “The place is amazing. It has not only the beautiful spirit and softness of Michael, but a legacy of a thousand years of Indian culture that had transacted upon it,” he said.

Cho encouraged the recipients to attain an understanding about the demands of running an animal sanctuary “by familiarizing yourself with the standards of excellence established by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and by visiting existing sanctuaries, such as Save the Chimps in Florida and the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s wildlife sanctuaries in California.” jfoster@syvjournal.com