Tyke Elephant Outlaw

2015 / 78 minutes / Netflix

This riveting documentary tells the tragic story of Tyke, a wild elephant forced to live within the confines of circus life and perform tricks. In 1973, a very young Tyke was wrested from her family in Mozambique and brought to the United States, where she was subjected to training by the Hawthorn Corporation and rented out to circuses. Her tale is recounted through historical footage and interviews with people who knew her, including those who worked around her and those who sought to protect her and her fellow pachyderms.

Tyke’s story is similar to that of other elephants forced to perform inane acts for human entertainment and commercial gain. She was hauled around the country, chained for up to 22 hours a day and repeatedly beaten in what was ultimately a futile effort to make her submit. There were warning signs that it was not safe for her to continue performing: At a circus in Pennsylvania, she ran off through a parking lot. Three months later, in North Dakota, she attacked a circus employee. Still, she was forced to perform. Then, on August 20, 1994, while performing at an arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tyke reached her breaking point. She went on a rampage, injuring a groom and killing her trainer before an arena filled with horrified spectators. She escaped and made her way to the busy city streets, where she ultimately was gunned down in a hail of bullets.

The film is a heartbreaking reminder of what circus elephants endure, despite what the industry portrays to its audiences. For more on the film, visit www.tykeelephantoutlaw.com/.