We remember TYKE (1974 – August 20, 1994)
On this day, 15 years ago, Tyke the elephant had had enough. Before a circus-full of horrified spectators, Tyke killed her trainer Allen Campbell and gored her groomer Dallas Beckwith, then bolted from the arena and ran through the streets of downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. She was on the loose for more than 30 minutes, and injured several other people - then collapsed after local police fired 86 bullets into her body. News reports said that it took nearly two hours for her to die.
Tyke was then a 20-year-old African elephant, owned by the now-notorious John Cuneo and his Hawthorn Corporation. She had a history of violent outbursts and had run wild on several previous occasions, but Hawthorn continued to rent her out for public display.
Tyke's death, excruciating though it was, created a legacy of awareness of the miserable lives of elephants forced to perform in circuses for our entertainment. This awareness has fueled an international movement to ban elephants and other animals from circuses, a movement that gains in strength daily. The Hawthorn Corporation, in 2004, was forced to relinquish all of its elephants. All but one of the survivors now live in sanctuaries. Tyke’s death should never have happened, but it was not in vain, and we honor her memory and her legacy.