The Tragic Story of Tyke The Elephant & 5 Ways We Can Help End Circus Exploitation For Good!

About a week ago, I became aware of the horrific story of Tyke, the circus elephant; and the image of her final moments continues to burn uncomfortably in my brain (If you would prefer to skip the video and go straight to how you can fight circus exploitation please scroll to the bottom)


To the indifferent, this story appears to be one of a crazed elephant that went on a wild rampage that killed her innocent trainer, but the Truth is never without reason.

The Undying Will To Be Free

Tyke was unjustly stolen from her family, when she was just a baby and then thrust into a mysterious cruel world, where she then spent the next 2 decades of her tragic life in the circus being abused and tortured. Yet, in spite of being made a slave, and enduring physical and mental abuse, Tyke remained wild, rebellious, and never gave up on her freedom.

tyke elephant abuse

The bullhook is a weapon used to control and abuse elephants in circuses and other forms of human entertainment.

“Trainers” use the bullhook to indoctrinate baby elephants when they are still young and vulnerable

The first time Tyke tried to escape her unwanted circumstances was in April of 1993. She then made another attempt a few months later, in July. On both occasions she made it clear that she had enough of the circus, and would be willing to use violence if necessary to obtain her right to freedom. Both of these warning signs, were ignored.

Then finally, in August of 1994, Tyke had enough of her life of abuse. She decided she didn’t want to live a life chained up like a slave anymore. She knew there was more to life than being the entertainment of an apathetic alien species. And, in a burst of decades of built up rage, she attacked her trainer and killed him. She then ventured into the hostile world of human “civilization,” if only to escape the madness, and here she was shot nearly 100 times; and suffered a slow and gruesome death.

The confusion, pain, and fear so easily interpreted on this poor animal’s face in her final moments, confronts me with an unsettling and sobering reminder — Human beings are by far the most dangerous of all species on the planet. I would argue, however, that this dystopian reality is not so much the result of premeditated malice — at least not on part of the overwhelming majority — as it is outright stupidity and ignorance.

In fact, when Tyke was shot to death, bystanders were crying. But this does not change the gut wrenching outcome — and that’s because ignorance can be just as dangerous as any intentional evil.

Awareness is always the key to change

Although this event was most certainly tragic, it did help to create awareness about animal cruelty in circuses around the United States, and even around the world. Subsequently — inspired by Tyke’s wild and free spirit — a wild life elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee was also opened just one year later. In fact, six of the elephants Tyke’s former “owner” held in captivity were actually liberated and sent there. And although legislation demanding a national ban on elephant’s performing in the circus failed to be mandated into law, it was still a step in the right direction — one that ultimately helped facilitate the more recent ending of elephants performing in both The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus acts. A documentary has also since been made, which can be found on Netflix.

As is the issue with any enterprise that is materialistically profitable though, animal cruelty in circuses around the world continues to this day — but only because we allow it to. If there is no demand, there is obviously no profit. This, again, starts with awareness; and the first thing we need to be made aware of, is that there is absolutely nothing natural about a wild animal doing tricks for our selfish want of being entertained. It is purely the result of human indoctrination.

The other thing that people need to be made aware of, is the fact that animals are just as complex as human beings. They can think, feel, and even dream, just as we do. And, quite naturally, they have a desire for freedom, family and respect, just as we do.

5 ways you can help fight back

1. The first step — in any form of activism — is to self educate, and then educate others. You can learn more about why you shouldn’t support animal exploitation in circuses HERE

2. NEVER go to circuses that use animals. Their motive is rooted in financial profit, and their profit is rooted in public demand. So vote with your money.

3. Support circuses that don’t use animals in their performances. For a list of companies go HERE and HERE

4. Contact your government representatives. A simple google search will bring up the relevant contact details. Our taxes go to the government so they can act as public servants, so do not be intimidated in demanding they take action.

5. Support organizations that actively fight for animal rights. For a list go HERE


Written by Gavin Nascimento, Founder of

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