In Memory of Tyke

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.

'The Cruelest Show on Earth'
‘The Cruelest Show on Earth’

The Cove Screening with Ric O’Barry

On Thursday 6th November I attended a screening of documentary film The Cove with Q&A session with Ric O’Barry in London.

The Cove is about an issue that was never really bought to public attention before – the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. Although the word ‘hunt’ really isn’t accurate, as the dolphins are not given even the slightest possibility to escape the hunter. The dolphin hunters trap the pods of dolphins that will be swimming through this area. Dolphins are incredibly sensitive to sound, which is used to their disadvantage, as the hunters trap them by banging poles at the bottom of the sea bed, thus startling the dolphins and stopping them in their tracks. When the whole group is collected in this area, a large net is then put down and they are trapped there over night. The next morning, the hunters will return and sort out those to ship to marine parks (such as Seaworld) all over the world. The rest will be slaughtered, and sold as dolphin meat.

Ric O’Barry’s evolvement with the Dolphins in Taiji came about in a very strange way. Having spent years working with dolphin Cathy on the famous TV series Flipper, O’Barry feels somewhat responsible for the way dolphins are treated today. He played a part in encouraging everybody to love these intelligent mammals and wanting to see them, however the captivity of dolphins in marine parks and swim with dolphin programmes has actually resulted in the slaughter of around 20,000 dolphins and small whales in Japan every year.

What really inspired me about The Cove and listening to Ric O’ Barry afterwards was his sheer determination to change things. My favourite part of the film is with a room full of representatives from different countries discussing Japan’s whale and dolphin policy, O’Barry simply walks in and stands at the front with a TV screen attached to him, showing the footage of a dolphin slaughter. Without a single word, O’Barry clearly shows that the facts speak for themselves.

So what is the answer? O’Barry believes this is exposing what happens in Taiji to the rest of the world. Founder of The Dolphin Project, O’Barry has a team of Cove Guardians that are at the cove every day of the hunt, documenting what happens. Careful to keep on the right side of the Japenese law, as they know that if they get in trouble they will be banned from the area and become ‘out of the game’ as O’Barry puts it. O’Barry believes that if the world knew about what happens in this tiny part of Japan, the whole practice would be shut down. He also refuses to blame the Japanese people for this annual tradition. The documentary actually follows him to other parts of Japan where the people are completely oblivious to what happens in Taiji, and aren’t even aware that dolphins are used for meat.

“Why is this happening?” Was somebody’s question to O’Barry, who then went on to explain how the situation in Taiji is the direct result of public demand; people want to see bottle-nose dolphins that look like Flipper, but the by-product of this is the rest of the dolphins who wouldn’t be suitable for the entertainment industry. O’Barry reminds us not to buy a ticket to these marine parks, now with the knowledge of what our money is really paying for.

O’Barry’s enthusiasm is definitely contagious and I left the screening feeling sad about the situation, but very positive that things can change. The caption on the front cover of The Cove DVD reads, ‘Shallow water. Deep secret.’ It seems that the key is exposing the secret, and boycotting marine parks and dolphin programmes, knowing the real price dolphins pay.


Ric O'Barry at Screening of The Cove - 6th November 2014