Tyke the elephant, and her fellow victims of Captive Animal Entertainment

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The circus is alluring, no doubt. But the facade is built on blood, pain, and suffering. The blood, pain, and suffering of animals forced to contort for a laugh. Punished and abused for life, because it’s entertaining for the kids, and it brings in money because parents would pay to see their kids laugh. (Who taught the kids to laugh at such things?)


Personally, we’ve also gone through that phase of falling for the romance of the travelling circus. But no more.

Say “NO” to circuses, and captive performing animals.

Say “NO” to tragedies like Tyke’s life, which ended in extreme pain, her body riddled with more than 80 bullets, pumped into her by police officers.

On Aug. 20, 1994, Tyke ran amok in the streets of Kaka’ako after mauling her groomer and killing her circus trainer in Blaisdell Arena. Advertiser Library photo

… Ten years ago today, in front of hundreds of horrified Circus International spectators, Tyke, a full-grown female African elephant, mauled her groomer, Dallas Beckwith, trampled and killed her trainer, Allen Campbell, and then bolted from Blaisdell Arena onto the streets of Kaka’ako.

There the animal ran wild for a half-hour, nearly killing another man, before she was finally brought down by Honolulu police who riddled her with bullets from high-powered rifles… read on

What caused this tragedy? – it is not an isolated incident, and it was only a matter of time before she snapped.

Tyke’s life-story tells us

She was trapped and taken away from her family when she was a baby. She was shipped to the circus. There, she was confined to a concrete room and beaten over and over, to break her spirit. Circus trainers hit her repeatedly with a sharp metal “bullhook,” which made her cry out in pain. They struck her in her most sensitive areas: behind her ears, on top of her toes, in back of her knees, and around her anus. They wanted to hurt her and frighten her so she would be obedient.

She spent most of her time in chains, doing nothing. Her bones ached from no exercise. Her diet was monotonous. She stood in filth and excrement. She was deprived of every aspect of normal elephant life. She hated it.

She was in the Hawthorn circus, which had a track record of animal cruelty violations. In 1988, according to USDA documents, Tyke was beaten in public to the point where she was “screaming and bending down on three legs to avoid being hit.” The trainer said he was “disciplining” her. By April of 1993, she had had enough. She tried to escape during a circus performance. She didn’t make it. In July she tried to escape again; she was unsuccessful. Hawthorn should have retired her right then and there, as she was an obvious threat to the public. But they didn’t.

For the next year she performed in the circus and lived in a barren concrete barn, chained, between shows. The bullhook beatings continued. Her life stank. She vacillated between terror and boredom. She was not really an elephant.

In August of 1994 Tyke reached a breaking point. She had been in the circus nearly 20 years. She was tired of being beaten, whipped, and kicked. She could no longer take the pain and the confinement. She was angry and wanted to be free. At an afternoon performance at the Neal Blaidsell Center in Honolulu, it all came to a head.

It’s not just circus/zoo or otherwise performing/captive elephants in the States or Europe who are suffering. Right here in our own neighbourhood of South-East Asia, home of the Asian Elephant, that abuse runs rampant too. Take Boon Rod, the elephant made to walk the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. (And remember, Thailand is a land that purports to revere the elephant.)

This is a post I made in response to Boon Rod’s story:

This is so typical of the way elephants are treated. They are social animals, with very good memory retention. There have been accounts of freed captive elephants who raised a ruckus when they met other elephants in sanctuaries because they recognised fellow captives they knew when young and who were then forcibly separated (again).

Often, elephants and other wild animals are “TRAINED” to amuse humans. And humans pay gladly to be amused. But what goes on behind the scenes? How did an elephant get “TRAINED” to entertain us?, Read up on Ringling (Another Shockingly shameful story about Ringling and their ilk!)

Elephants roam, and they need ROOM for that. It is in their nature because that is how they forage. Captive elephants on the other hand, are given only enough space to stand – in human terms, it’d be like telling you you can only stand on a stamp – try moving outside the stamp and you’ll get a dose of the electric prod or worse, stabbed with a bullhook in your private parts. Honestly, who can fathom, let alone stand such abuse?

On 20 August, 1994, one such elephant snapped. Tyke, ran amok after suffering 20 years of abuse and cruelty. Gunned down after her rampage through the city of Honolulu, she bled to a slow painful death, with at least 80 gunshot wounds. http://www.animalwritings.com/2005/03/tykes-last-performance.asp

Stories about Tyke’s gruesome death

More Tyke stories

Laws/Proposals for Laws inspired by Tyke’s tragic life and death:

Recorded incidents and eye witness reports on Tyke:

  • May 7, 1996: Hawthorn paid a $12,500 penalty to settle USDA charges of causing Tyke trauma and harm and of jeopardizing public safety. Police shot Tyke to death on August 20, 1994 after she rampaged and killed her trainer.
  • April 21, 1993: An elephant named Tyke ripped through the front doors of the Jaffa Mosque during a performance and ran out of control for an hour in Altoona, Pa. An estimated 4,500 schoolchildren had to evacuate the building, and the rampage caused more than $14,000 in damage.
  • April 22, 1993: According to an affidavit obtained by the USDA from circus worker Richard Rosio, Tyke attacked a tiger trainer while the circus was in Altoona, Pa.
  • July 23, 1993: An elephant named Tyke ran amok at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, N.D., trampling and injuring a handler and frightening the crowd as she ran uncontrolled for 25 minutes
  • June 21, 1988: According to USDA and Canadian law enforcement documents, while a Hawthorn elephant named Tyke was performing with Tarzan Zerbini Circus, “The elephant handler was observed beating the single-tusk African elephant in public to the point [where] the elephant was screaming and bending down on three legs to avoid being hit. Even when the handler walked by the elephant after this, the elephant screamed and veered away, demonstrating fear from his presence.” The handler was John Caudill (a.k.a. John Walker of Walker Bros. Circus) who admitted to “disciplining” Tyke after she hit Caudill’s brother and put a hole in his back with her tusk.

More resources:
Elephants also suffer in captivity from tuberculosis and fatal foot rot due to not getting the exercise they would normally get in their natural habitat. TB is often carried by performing elephants and can spread from human to elephant and vice versa. Please join us in rejoicing in the elephants that have been mercifully retired and speak for the others who await their freedom.

Best Links:

What can you do to stop this cruelty and abuse?- when you visit Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, India or other places with live animal acts, or rides, or begging animals, do not pay to watch these acts, do not give money, so that you do encourage the exploitation that has ruined Boon Rod’s life and add to the problem.

So, please remember Tyke who died in Honolulu, Hawaii, America on 20 Aug 1994 for fighting back against the abusive life of an entertainment animal, and think of Boon Rod, made to endure the pain and pollution of walking Bangkok’s streets as a beggar until her story was made known to the world and she rescued from a life of suffering.

More resources:

(EDIT: Much thanks to the folks who shared their thoughts and added resources in the Remembering TYKE: 10 Year Commemorative thread on the Elephant Lovers group on care2.com)

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7 responses to “Tyke the elephant, and her fellow victims of Captive Animal Entertainment

  1. Good work on spreading the word on things like this. More people need to be education on these kinds of things and so many other nonhuman related issues. We need a kind of awakening and heightened awareness to spread throughout all cultures. It’s great to see sites like this contributing to that ultimate goal. Let’s together wake up the humans on this planet!

  2. Yup. If only everybody do their bit.

  3. Pingback: Tipped Ear Clan Tyke the elephant, animal escapes and going green «

  4. Deanna Faubert

    I watched tyke on the news back in 94, We knew long before the horrible scene that was about to unfold that day that these beautiful animals Have had enough.But it seems that no one is listening.I cried then, and i still cry when i think of tyke, and alot of other elephants who have be tortured all for “entertainment”.When my kids were small i took them to the circus which came through town.At the begining of the “show” a monkey handler hit one of the lil chimps with a stick on his lil head,I was sickened and vey angry.I grabbed my son and daughter and left! I told my husband and about half of the town!that was 19 yrs ago, Since that day i have boycotted anything that has to do with the circus! RIP Tyke

  5. Deanna,
    Thank you for teaching your children about the evils of the circus. Tyke and her fellow circus captive will surely be happy to know.

  6. Please please don’t go to the circus. Even most zoos are questionable. I feel so bad for these animals. I just saw Tyke’s death on NGC on tv and couldn’t stop crying. This poor animal.

  7. After learning how the circus’s have treated their animals, my heart is turned inside out.
    The circus Chimpanzees were sold to research labs after they became too strong to handle.
    It is no wonder the elephants turn on their trainers, what do they expect after a lifetime of beatings, chains, and intimidation?
    My family and I will never got to the circus…….