Documentary on 1994 elephant rampage premieres in Hawaii

Documentary on 1994 elephant rampage premieres in Hawaii
Susan Lambert
Susan Lambert
Stefan Moore
Stefan Moore

A new documentary of an infamous elephant rampage made its premiere in the city where it happened more than two decades ago.

It was back in August 1994 when Tyke, a circus elephant, went on that rampage, killing its trainer before a horrified crowd at the Blaisdell Center.

The elephant then escaped from the arena and ran wild through the streets of Kakaako before it was gunned down.

"What was behind that? What was the cause of that?" said Susan Lambert, one of the producers and directors of the documentary "Tyke: Elephant Outlaw." "That set us on the journey to find people who'd witnessed it, people in Honolulu who'd witnessed it, being inside the Blaisdell Center, being on the streets."

The film has already been screened at 14 other film festivals, and recently won Best Documentary honors at the Portland Film Festival.

The filmmakers said the original idea for the film was to examine the relationship between animals and their trainers. And then they found the story of Tyke.

"It was really interesting because we didn't ever intend to make an animal rights film," said Lambert.

"Tyke had a history of abuse," said Stefan Moore, the other producer and director of the movie. "We found out that there was a history of incidents leading up to Hawaii that should have been taken notice of, and weren't taken notice of. So this was a sort of time bomb ready to explode."

The premiere comes a few days before the state Board of Agriculture considers a statewide ban on wild animal acts. Earlier this year, Gov. David Ige announced that the state would no longer issue permits for entertainment acts involving wild animals. Prior to that, the 50th State Fair got approval to bring in a grizzly bear act, which is likely to be the last one of its kind allowed in the state.

The possible ban can be traced back to Tyke.

"I hope that people who see this show will take away a new feeling that it's time to end these shows," said Cathy Goeggel of Animal Rights Hawaii, a group that supported bills to stop exotic animal acts in Hawaii. None of those bills have passed.

"It's not necessary in the circus any more," said Lambert. "There's wonderful circuses without wild performing animals."

Tyke: Elephant Outlaw will have two more screenings at the Hawaii Film Festival on Sunday.

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