Tyke’s Legacy

August 20th, 2010 by Nicole Meyer

RIP Tyke

RIP Tyke

Sixteen years ago today, Tyke , a 20 year old African elephant “owned” by the notorious Hawthorn Corporation, was killed. On August 20, 1994, she was performing with the Circus International in Hawaii when she killed her trainer and gored her groomer, then bolted from the arena and ran through the city for a half-hour, injuring several people before collapsing from the 86 police bullets fired into her. It took nearly two hours for her to die on the Honolulu street.

Tyke’s legacy, a growing worldwide awareness of the suffering of animals in circuses, continues to gather strength. We are working every day to nurture that awareness, and to transform it into action.  Elephants in circuses endure intense confinement, social isolation and the constant threat of physical punishment. We aim to end these abusive practices and to prevent further injuries or deaths – elephant or human – resulting from the proximity between the public and these traumatized, highly stressed animals.

Tyke’s actions came as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention – at least three times in the 16 months prior to her last stand in Hawaii she had escaped her handlers, causing terror and injury to people and to property. Yet she continued to perform until her final hours.

This was not an isolated situation in which one overstressed, rebellious elephant slipped through the cracks; the “system” in place to prevent such occurrences is flawed almost to the point of nonexistence. An Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Audit released in June found that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), whose job it is to ensure that exhibited animals are handled in a way that does not put the public or the animals at risk, is failing. Neither the inspection process nor the tracking of exhibitors works to safeguard animals or people.

Today there are at least 10 elephants with documented histories of lashing out or bolting who continue to perform around the nation – in close proximity to the public.  Many of them are used to give rides to children. Since February of this year there have been three incidents that we know of (and who knows how many more that went unreported). Two elephants, Viola and an elephant with Ringling, escaped from their handlers, each narrowly missing crowds of circus-goers when they bolted; Viola was injured when she fell down a steep embankment in her attempt to flee. Another elephant, Dumbo lashed out and killed her longtime handler.

Despite all our efforts to find her, Dumbo’s whereabouts have been unknown since shortly after the killing in Pennsylvania; whether she is off the road or has vanished into the thousands of fairs around the country where anonymous elephants turn up for a few days at a time is anyone’s guess at this point. It does not appear that she is under any official travel restriction.

Both Viola and the elephant with Ringling, at last report, are still traveling, still performing, still stressed and miserable – and still putting crowds of people at serious risk.

Sixteen years ago today a person was killed, others were injured, and an elephant died in agony. The public is exposed daily to elephants who have clearly signaled their frustration with circus torture, and to others who have endured years of anguish and stress. We continue to honor Tyke’s memory and her legacy by working to end the use of elephants in circuses and traveling shows to end their suffering and before tragedy strikes again.

This blog was contributed by Deborah Robinson, IDA’s Captive Elephant Specialist.

19 Responses to “Tyke’s Legacy”

  1. August 23, 2013 at 8:53 am, tca said:

    I sure wish they made an easy way to share this article on Facebook — when you click on the link to the left it jut takes you to IDA’s page and there is no mention of Tyke :\


  2. August 31, 2010 at 5:02 am, Sarah Mullally said:

    I’m sickened. Just sickened. Ashamed to be a human being. No other species tortures for fun. Does anyone have any advice for our protest here in KC? RBB&BC is here next week (9/8 through 9/12) we are getting a group together to protest..wondering what advice (other than promoting on FB) and maybe any flyers or recommendations from people? My email is thanks a lot


  3. August 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm, lisa said:

    I will continue to fight the circus and their abuses. I spread the message where ever i go, carrying fliers in my car. Circuses are torture chambers for animals. RIP Tyke. You will not be forgotten.


  4. August 22, 2010 at 10:25 am, TJ said:

    Truly disgusting what human beings do to animals!


  5. August 22, 2010 at 8:19 am, Donna Hunter said:

    This is a terrible thing..I feel so sorry for the animals kept penned up and punished for not performing the way the humans see wonder they lash out! This elephant, Tyke, died a horrible death, and people were hurt because the people in control werent doing what they should…how awful..


  6. August 21, 2010 at 11:29 am, Kana Longfoot said:

    I’m sick to my stomach everytime I hear these stories. When will auhtorities wake up? Elephants due to their size and nature, do NOT belong stuffed in a box doing ballerina dances in a building. They are social creatures, need their pack so to speak and to live where they can be free. I think Circus’ needs to stop the practice of ANY wild animals. I have not ever taken my children nor will I, I spread the word on the treatment of these poor souls, and probably have prevented more people from supporting Nazi Circus act. Its in humane and SELFISH! Set these creatures free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It’s simply NOT FAIR!


    • August 02, 2013 at 5:26 am, kam said:



  7. August 21, 2010 at 10:51 am, Candace Neff said:

    I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping animals like TYKE! In any way I can! I just wish I had a lot of money because it would most definetly, without another thought, go to their causes and their safety and their release from mankind……………so I wuill do what I can withot a lot of money…we must help these creatures…God Bless them and protect them!!!!


  8. August 21, 2010 at 9:43 am, ECMcSorley said:

    We humans ought to be ashamed of ourselves for permitting and allowing this exploitation to continue. We must do all we can to stop it.


  9. August 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm, Catherine Smegal said:

    The world is watching as these old-fashioned animal circuses hold on to their tired, lame shows that exploit animals and bore the rest of us to tears. The children know. I can see it in their eyes as I’m outside the venue, protesting. Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. are breathing their last gasps.


  10. August 20, 2010 at 7:04 pm, Debra Mangum said:

    I am disgused by what they do to these poor creatures…this
    Elephant and even the latest on the Bull that jumped into the audiance, I have no pity for people that what to see death to an animal.
    What have the done to them? All animals…should not be locked up in cages for us to look at or for our children.
    I am so against the cruelity that they endure…if you ever seen it, you would never ever go to another circus or to Mexico for Bull fights!


  11. August 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm, Donna Reynolds said:

    Thanks for alerting us to this awful anniversary of Tyke’s final escape from her human tormentors. And bless IDA for its constancy in trying to keep track of the magnificent elephants in captivity, horribly stuck in the hands of handlers who are making $$ from their misery.


  12. August 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm, Chloe Jones said:

    I remember watching that documentary on the news a couple of years ago, and me and mum were absolutely disgusted at how they let that poor animal die such a terrible way. I think that it was the peoples fault anyway, had they of treated her right she wouldn’t of done that. I couldn’t care less about her trainer and groomer. I’m just not going to right what I think should be happening to them.


  13. August 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm, Patty Shenker said:

    Circuses should be fun for everyone- and certainly not cruel to some! The myriad talents that humans display is enough to keep people happily entertained. Circuses with animals are just riding an old train- and refuse to get with the times where animals are now ackowledged as being sentient and therefore capable of suffering. Always big thanks to Catherine Doyle for educating people to the truths about elephants.


  14. August 20, 2010 at 11:59 am, Goddess Knows said:

    Until the bottom line isn’t money, this will continue. The whole world of greed and money has to go away. Completely away. And it’s about to do just that. We need to dismantle patriarchal domineering tyranny and bring back matriarchal compassion and a world built on sharing and common sense. Until then, slaughter and mayhem will continue business for-the-dollar as usual.


  15. August 20, 2010 at 10:05 am, angela helms said:

    86 bullets and 2 hours to the end. are these police effing slow? can they shoot or did they aim to torture. those filthy idiots. i am sick of animals being harmed, tortured ,and killed because of stupid humans. get rid of the idiots and save the animals.


  16. August 20, 2010 at 9:44 am, eleanor said:

    Wtf is the matter with people? I read horrible stories like this , and I’m honestly ashamed to be a member of the same species – the capacity some so-called humans have for cruelty to animals never ceases to shock and sadden me. Most Humans are a sick group of ANIMALS!


  17. August 20, 2010 at 9:16 am, Vicki Eddy said:

    God Awful……………


    • August 23, 2013 at 9:02 am, tca said:

      I sure wish they would make an easy way to share this article on Facebook — when you click on the link to the left, it just takes you to IDA’s page and there is no mention of Tyke :\


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