Today marks the 21st anniversary of the upsetting and completely surreal death of African circus elephant, Tyke. Tyke represents the lives of wild animals in circuses all around the world, and proves that animals are not ours to use for entertainment.
On August 20th, 1994, Tyke would give her final performance in Honolulu, Hawaii. After years of abuse and entrapment at the circus, Tyke finally had the opportunity to act in a way that was natural to her for the first time in her entire life – run away. After trampling her groomer, Tyke’s trainer, Allen Campbell, stepped in to try to help but sustained serious injuries that resulted in his death. Tyke then continued through the streets of the city, desperately trying to find some kind of safety, in a world that she had never even seen due to being confined to the circus all her life.
After half an hour of chasing her, Tyke was shot by local police officers 86 times, as the public watched in horror. She finally collapsed as a result, and died on the street.
Throughout her twenty years of living, Tyke was never given the opportunity to act in a way that was natural to her as an elephant, as with all animals performing in circuses. These animals are taken from their families, and often beaten and starved in the name of ‘training’. The first time Tyke had the opportunity to follow her instinct was to run away from the circus, for which she was promptly killed. My first thought after finding out this information was, ‘how was it ever okay for an elephant to be brutally killed in public like that?’ After doing some research I found out this has happened before, dating back to 1916 in the town of Erwin, Tennessee. You can read a Daily Mail article about this completely shocking and surreal incident here (be warned, it’s not pleasant).
The only comfort we can really take from Tyke’s story, is that it has sparked change in using wild animals in circuses. Due to numerous campaigns from organisations including CAPS (Captive Animals’ Protection Society) and Animal Defenders International, the list of countries implementing a ban is continuing to grow. However the UK, although seen as a nation of animal-lovers, is still yet to join these countries.
The documentary ‘Circus Elephant Rampage’ that was recently shown on the BBC is available to view until Saturday. This shows Tyke’s story, leading up to her final moments in Hawaii, you can watch it here.
For now, I’ll be remembering Tyke as the amazing elephant she was, and a beacon of hope for the other animals that are still suffering in circuses around the world today. R.I.P. Tyke.