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Elephant Attacks

The following is a partial listing of rampages by captive elephants since 1990. These incidents have resulted in 59 deaths and more than 120 injuries.

June 17, 2002/Menomonie, Wis.: Two elephants, named Tory and Mary, performing with the Shrine Circus bolted out of a circus tent during a show, scattering crowds. Mary hiked 2 miles through town and was recaptured at the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus when trucks blocked her escape. One child was injured, and the elephants damaged a door at the park and caused $600 in damage to a city truck. The Shriners had contracted with George Carden Circus for the event.

May 28, 2002/Dhaka, Bangladesh: The owner of Seven Star Circus and two trainers were arrested and charged with negligence after a chained elephant grabbed a 10-year-old boy with her trunk, threw him to the ground, and trampled him to death. The boy had been petting the elephant when she suddenly went berserk.

March 13, 2002/Easley, S.C.: An elephant named Tonya, belonging to Robert Childress and used in various circuses, escaped the control of her handlers while she was being loaded into a trailer, fled into nearby woods, and was recaptured with the assistance of police. This is the fourth time that Tonya has run amok.

January 28, 2002/Phnom Penh, Cambodia: An elephant kept at a military camp knocked down and trampled a keeper to death as he was being fed. The elephant was later shipped to Cambodia's national zoo.

October 27, 2001/Charlotte, N.C.: Two elephants leased by Hawthorn Corporation to Circus Vazquez rampaged throughout a church. Two church members were nearly trampled, and children had to be quickly ushered to safety. The elephants crashed into the church through a glass window, broke and buckled walls and door frames, and knocked a car 15 feet, causing an estimated $75,000 in damages. The elephants suffered cuts and bruises. One of the elephants had rampaged twice before.

October 20, 2001/London, England: A zookeeper was crushed to death when an elephant rolled on him at the London Zoo, while dozens of visitors looked on. Critics had earlier charged that the zoo's facilities were too cramped to keep elephants in. After the keeper's death, the London Zoo decided to send all three of its elephants to an animal park.

August 24, 2001/Knoxville, Tenn.: A 40-year-old elephant became spooked, broke free from her handlers, and smashed through a metal gate while being taken on a walk at the Knoxville Zoo. One handler required five stitches for a gash on his head caused when the elephant knocked him down, and another suffered a broken rib when the elephant swiped at him.

August 6, 2001/Czech Republic: A zookeeper at Dvur Kralove nad Labem zoo was killed when an elephant attacked him with his tusks, inflicting fatal injuries to his chest. The attack occurred after the keeper tripped over the elephant's chains while giving him an injection.

July 31, 2001/Singapore: A zookeeper was hospitalized with fractured ribs and a punctured lung after an elephant lifted him with his trunk and gored him during an afternoon walk.

July 17, 2001/Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: An elephant used in movies and TV commercials wrapped his trunk around his trainer and lifted him off the
ground, breaking a rib and injuring his lungs.

June 14, 2001/Kathmandu, Nepal: An elephant used in a ceremony killed a woman and later chased a group of dignitaries after being taunted by a crowd of onlookers.

June 10, 2001/Denver, Colo.: When her trainer dropped a barrel during a bathing demonstration, a 6,700-pound elephant named Hope became startled and rampaged, throwing her trainer against a wall, scattering crowds of zoogoers, and knocking over a mother and her baby in a stroller. The baby was treated at a hospital for a bump on the head, the trainer suffered cuts and bruises, a man sprained his ankle, and a woman had an asthma attack while running away from the elephant. Hope was recaptured three hours later. Hope and a baby elephant had been leased two weeks earlier from the California-based company Have Trunk Will Travel to perform daily shows during the summer.

April 16, 2001/Broederstroom, South Africa: An elephant with Brian Boswell's circus who was being used on a film set killed her handler. The elephant, who had been grazing, walked over, knocked down the handler with her trunk, and possibly stepped on him.

February 22, 2001/Moscow, Russia: A trainer was crushed to death by an elephant following a performance at the Moscow theater.

February 9, 2001/Chester, England: A zookeeper at the Chester Zoo was in critical condition with injuries to his head and shoulders after he was butted and knocked down by a 30-year-old Asian elephant. The man died after 11 days in the intensive care unit.

November 21, 2000/Bangkok, Thailand:Three politicians were thrown eight feet when an elephant they were riding panicked upon seeing traffic and bolted through the streets. One man suffered a broken arm, another sustained head, arm, and leg injuries, and the third man was badly bruised.

November 16, 2000/Lyon, France: Five elephants with a circus, panicked by a car horn, stampeded and wrecked six cars.

July 13, 2000/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant used for giving rides to tourists gored a man to death after the man teased him by pretending to offer food.

June 22, 2000/Washington, Pa.: An elephant named Tonya traveling with Circus Hope became frightened when children approached her with toy horns. Tonya escaped the control of her handlers and was later led back to her tent by police officers, security personnel, and trainers. All the animals in the circus were "on edge" because of highway noise and the surface of the parking lot.

May 5, 2000/Maun, Botswana: An elephant being used in a safari operation was spooked and attacked a guide, killing him.

May 1, 2000/São Paulo, Brazil: A 9-year-old girl suffered a broken jaw and lost 10 teeth after an elephant being kept in the Sorocaba Zoo threw a large stone at her. The child had to undergo surgery, with another surgery scheduled later.

April 24, 2000/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant used in a tourist park went berserk during a show and attacked three visitors, killing one and seriously injuring the other two.

April 20, 2000/Yucca Valley, Calif.: Two elephants being used by the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus escaped from their pens. One stomped down three city blocks, frightening bystanders. Authorities said that a circus employee trying to get the second elephant under control was "trampled."

February 14, 2000/Bangkok, Thailand: A bull elephant tossed his handler off his back and went berserk in the heart of Bangkok, stampeding through a major shopping district before being tranquilized. The elephant was hungry and exhausted from walking along the busy streets begging for money for his handler, a common practice in Thailand.

February 7, 2000/Thailand: A bull elephant, used as a working animal, killed one man and crushed the arm of another. The man's arm was so badly injured, it had to be amputated.

February 7, 2000/London, England: A keeper at a British zoo was crushed to death by one of the elephants in his care. The handler was found with multiple injuries in the elephant's stall.

January 26, 2000/Riverview, Fla.: A female elephant named Kenya attacked and killed her trainer at the Ramos Family Circus winter compound. Kenya knocked the trainer to the ground, stepped on her, and knocked her down a second time when the woman tried to stand up. Kenya was used in the Ramos' traveling shows and to give rides.

January 8, 2000/Thodupuzha, India: A show designed to get placed in the Guinness Book of World Records ended in tragedy when seven baby elephants panicked and ran amok, killing one bystander and injuring several others. Several cars-including that of the ambassador-were smashed. The secretary of India's Elephant Protection Council said that elephants run amok or die mainly because of torture. The council said that 250 mahouts and 234 elephants have been killed in the state since 1980.

December 22, 1999/Madison, Wis.: An elephant attacked two keepers at the Henry Vilas Zoo, throwing one against the wall and grabbing the other in her mouth. The elephant has injured people at least three other times since being brought to the zoo in 1966.

October 24, 1999/Valledupar, Colombia: An elephant gored and trampled her trainer to death after performing in a show with the Modelo Circus. Maggy had just gone through her nightly routine when she suddenly turned on her whip-wielding trainer, tossed him into the air, and impaled him with her tusks.

July 11, 1999/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant used for carrying tourists at a popular resort gouged his 13-year-old keeper to death. The boy was taking the 25-year-old elephant, Boonlieng, for his usual bath when the animal suddenly became nervous and killed him.

May 15, 1999/Ontario, Canada: A 23-year-old American circus worker died after an elephant backstage at a circus performance attacked him. Police say the man, who assisted the trainers with the animals in the Leonardo Circus, was kicked in the head.

April 29, 1999/Duluth, Minn.: An animal handler with the Tarzan Zerbini Circus (also doing business as Circus Maximus) was injured by an elephant and hospitalized in serious condition with multiple injuries.

February 21, 1999/Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Luna, an elephant with the Royal Hanneford Circus, escaped the ring and charged the crowd in the middle of a performance. Luna ran through two tiers of seats, causing panic and sending spectators running for safety.

November 17, 1998/Kathmandu, Nepal: A circus elephant killed her trainer and ran through the town of Janadpur. Police shot the elephant 40 times and killed her.

November 9, 1998/Indianapolis, Ind.: Cita, a 29-year-old elephant at the Indianapolis Zoo, attacked her keeper after being reprimanded. She struck the keeper with her trunk, breaking several ribs.

August 27, 1998/Syracuse, N.Y.: An elephant with the Commerford & Sons petting zoo, carrying children on her back at the state fair, panicked and knocked down her trainer, then stepped on him. A 3-year-old girl was also injured after falling off the elephant. Both were treated at a local hospital.

July 1998/Madison, Wis.: An Asian elephant named Winky and an African elephant named Penny injured a zookeeper at the Henry Villas Zoo. The zookeeper was "picked up by one, thrown and [then] knelt down upon by a second elephant."

June 1998/Minsk, Belarus: A male elephant named Surik at the Hrodno Zoo in Belarus suddenly attacked a keeper, who died of her injuries.

February 16, 1998/Mentor, Ohio: A circus elephant named Tonya panicked while in a high school hallway and forced open a door. She ran a quarter of a mile and damaged a police car before being caught outside a discount store.

December 25, 1997/Colombo, Sri Lanka: Raja, an elephant at the National Zoological Gardens who had killed his trainer 18 months before, killed another trainer by grabbing him with his trunk and goring him with his tusk.

November 3, 1997/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant killed eight people and injured his trainer.

September 23, 1997/New Delhi, India: An elephant forced to carry heavy loads went berserk, trampled his owner to death, and destroyed nearly 100 huts before being shot and killed by police.

June 28, 1997/Seagoville, Texas: A 65-year-old man who entered a "storage yard for circus animals" was attacked by an elephant and suffered a broken arm and dislocated shoulder.

May 28, 1997/Gainesville, Texas: An elephant at the Frank Buck Zoo crushed her handler to death.

April 13, 1997/Calgary, Canada: An elephant bit her trainer on the head and back at the Shrine Circus. The circus refused to remove the elephant from public performances stating, "Elephants are safe."

March 17, 1997/Bangkok, Thailand: A spooked elephant killed an Australian man at a tourist show in northern Thailand.

January 1997/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant was gunned down after breaking free and going berserk.

October 20, 1996/Los Angeles, Calif.: An assistant trainer was attacked by a female elephant during a training exercise at the Los Angeles Zoo. Onlookers reported that the elephant grabbed the worker's head, knocked him down, and tried to trample him. He was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for three broken ribs and a broken collarbone.

July 1996/Quebec, Canada: An elephant attacked her trainer while he was preparing to give elephant rides.

June 14, 1996/Casper, Wyo.: An elephant knocked down and repeatedly kicked her trainer. At the time of the incident, the elephant was giving rides to children. One child fell off the elephant. This elephant was performing with Jordan World Circus and is currently owned by John Cuneo. She is the same elephant who attacked a trainer in Salt Lake City in 1994.

June 1996/Colombo, Sri Lanka: Raja, a "star" attraction at the National Zoological Gardens in Sri Lanka, was being led to a performance when he grabbed his trainer with his trunk and smashed him against a pole, killing him.

June 1996/Iquique, Chili: An elephant at a circus killed a 10-year-old boy after knocking him down during a circus performance.

February 8, 1996/Thailand: An elephant was shot and killed after he killed his owner and damaged several houses. The elephant had broken free just the night before and caused damage in the village.

1996/Rome, Italy: A trainer was killed by an elephant with the Tongi Circus.

December 7, 1995/Cairo, Egypt: An elephant being used to give rides at the Cairo Zoo killed her keeper by picking him up, throwing him to the ground, and stomping on him. Veterinarians said the elephant had recently seemed severely depressed.

July 10, 1995/Queens, N.Y.: Two elephants with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus went on a rampage, triggering a panic among hundreds of spectators that left 12 people injured. Six spectators were hospitalized after the elephants bolted from the circus tent and crashed into a parked car before being brought under control by a trainer.

May 19, 1995/Hanover, Pa.: Two elephants with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus rampaged at the North Hanover Mall, smashing store windows, damaging cars, and escaping into the woods. One of the elephants, Frieda, killed Joan Scovell, 47, of New London, Conn., in 1985 by grabbing the woman with her trunk and throwing her down to the ground in a parking lot of the New London Mall.

May 1995/Zurich, Switzerland: An 11-year-old female elephant seriously injured herkeeper and was later destroyed.

April 2, 1995/Brussels, Belgium: Two elephants trampled their keeper to death at a wildlife park. The male and female pair broke out of their pens because they were upset at being separated from each other.

March 16, 1995/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant in a circus trampled two men to death before being shot and killed by police. The elephant was killed when chloroform bullets failed to stop him from charging the crowd.

February 1995/Fort Wayne, Ind.: An employee of Tarzan Zerbini Circus was stepped on by an elephant while loading the elephants into a trailer. The employee suffered a crushed pelvis and was in critical condition.

October 10, 1994/Riley County, Kan.: A 3-year-old girl was feeding grass to a 15-month-old elephant at the King Royal Circus when the elephant wrapped his trunk around her neck and attempted to pull her into the arena. The girl was treated for injuries at a local hospital.

August 20, 1994/Honolulu, Hawaii: Tyke, an elephant with Circus International, killed her trainer and stomped and injured a circus groom and a dozen spectators. Tyke ran amok just before her performance, breaking out of the arena and leading police on a chase down several city blocks until they shot her to death with almost 100 bullets. This was the second elephant incident at the circus in as many weeks.
Multiple lawsuits were filed.

August 15, 1994/Honolulu, Hawaii: Elaine, an elephant with Circus International, pinned Sean Floyd, his wife, and their eight children under a fence that separated the first row of spectators from the circus rings. Floyd and his 15-year-old daughter, Rachel, suffered injuries.

August 4, 1994/Laie, Hawaii: Two family members were injured when an elephant at Circus International knocked a metal barrier onto the family, pinning them to the bleachers. Suits were filed against John Cuneo and the Hawthorn Corporation, owners of the elephant, and also against Ralph Yempuku, the circus promoter.

July 23, 1994/Nyborg, Denmark: An elephant at Circus Benneweis attacked her trainer and trampled members of the audience before running amok through the town's harbor. Two people were injured. The elephant later returned on her own to join her three companions and was destroyed.

July 18, 1994/New York, N.Y.: An elephant with the Moscow Circus attacked a Russian translator backstage at ABC's Live With Regis and Kathie Lee television show. The elephant repeatedly smashed her head into the woman, pinning her to a wall and leaving her with a skull fracture, broken ribs, and a punctured lung. Lawsuits are pending against the circus, the show, and ABC for $5 million.

July 1, 1994/Louisville, Ky.: A man visiting the Louisville Zoological Gardens was picked up and dropped several times by an elephant. As a result of the man's injuries, his spleen and part of his pancreas were removed. The elephant had just finished giving rides to zoo visitors and was being led away when she wandered away and picked up the man. Zoo officials believe the elephant, normally considered calm and docile, was just "horsing around."

April 6, 1994/Salt Lake City, Utah: While giving rides to two children, an elephant picked up, tossed, and stepped on an animal trainer with the Jordan Circus, breaking his arm and ribs and causing internal organ damage. Another trainer was also injured in the incident.

April 1994/Muskegon, Mich.: Three children were injured when an elephant giving rides at a Shrine-sponsored circus fell into the passenger loading platform, spilling the riders and bending the platform.

March 16, 1994/Java, Indonesia: An elephant giving rides to a family of three at the Surabaya Zoo tossed them off, trampled them, and ran wildly through the zoo, injuring seven others.

February 24, 1994/Chicago, Ill.: An elephant handler suffered broken ribs, a broken sternum, a collapsed lung, and a wound on her back when she slipped under an elephant she was trying to secure. The elephant had broken through some chains and ropes in the holding area at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The handler is
seeking $1 million in damages against the zoo.

January 30, 1994/Cleveland, Ohio: An elephant at the Cleveland Zoo lunged at her keeper, gashing his head. Although zoo officials said the elephant had never before acted so aggressively, they believe she had a "temper tantrum" as a result of her confinement during a sub-zero cold spell.

October 1993/Toronto, Canada: An elephant keeper was gored by an elephant, causing serious injuries.

September 1993/Vallejo, Calif.: Radio personality Scott Stuart was posing for a publicity photograph when an elephant ran wildly across a public area and threw Stuart onto a cement path. The elephant was being used to give rides to children. Stuart sued the park for the injuries he suffered and was awarded $600,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

July 30, 1993/Tampa, Fla.: An elephant at the Lowry Park Zoo killed her keeper by pinning her to the ground and kicking her in the chest. Several weeks beforehand, the elephant had pushed the same keeper into a moat surrounding the elephant compound.

July 23, 1993/Minot, N.D.: Tyke, the elephant killed in the August 20, 1994, incident described above, escaped from her trainer while at the North Dakota State Fair and trampled an elephant show worker, breaking two of his ribs.

June 5, 1993/Fishkill, N.Y.: An elephant crushed a man to death by pinning him against a trailer in the elephant area of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus grounds at the Fishkill Mall.

May 5, 1993/Williston, Fla.: A circus trainer died of internal injuries after an elephant knocked him down and stomped on his chest at a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephant farm.

April 21, 1993/Altoona, Pa.: A female elephant, Tyke, charged through an arena entryway during a Great American Circus performance. She ripped away part of the wall, causing $10,000 in damage. More than 3,000 children were in the audience. One young girl suffered injuries to her ankle. Her parents made a cash settlement with the Hawthorn Corporation. The elephant ran out onto an upstairs balcony and was later coaxed back by her trainers.

February 23, 1993/Pliego, Spain: An elephant handler was injured when an elephant leading a parade drove her tusk into the handlers back.

December 16, 1992/San Antonio, Texas: An elephant killed his keeper by grabbing him and slamming him to the ground as he was leading a group of elephants into an enclosure at the San Antonio Zoo.

November 2, 1992/San Salvador, El Salvador: An elephant at the San Salvador National Zoo crushed her keeper to death as schoolchildren looked on. The elephant had spent her entire life at the zoo without a mate and was reportedly "frustrated and lonely." She killed two keepers in 15 years.

July 15, 1992/Lafayette, Ind.: Nine people were injured when they could not get out of the way as elephants in the Tarzan Zerbini International Circus collided and toppled a barricade at a shopping center.

April 24, 1992/Delhi, India: An elephant killed a man after the man had been tormenting the elephant with needles.

February 1, 1992/Palm Bay, Fla.: An elephant with the Great American Circus went on a rampage while carrying children on her back. She injured 12 people and threw a police officer to the ground before being shot and killed by police.

1992/Moscow, Russia: A keeper at the Moscow Zoo was killed by an elephant.

December 1991/Houston, Texas: An elephant attacked her trainer and broke his collarbone and four ribs.

August 1991/Leicestershire, England: An elephant at the Twycross Zoo killed her keeper as he was examining her injured foot. She butted him with her head, breaking his neck against the cage bars.

July 10, 1991/Tokyo, Japan: An elephant, apparently maddened by being confined to a cage, trampled her keeper to death.

April 1991/Bangkok, Thailand: An elephant was frightened by a camera flash and trampled a person to death.

March 15, 1991/San Diego, Calif.: A keeper was killed by an elephant at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

January 13, 1991/Oakland, Calif.: An animal handler who was cleaning an elephant's pen at the Oakland Zoo was kicked to death by the elephant.

1991/Portland, Ore.: Tamba, an elephant with Metro Washington Park Zoo, "accidentally" slammed a trainer against a wall. Seven months later, he knocked the same man down, fracturing his skull. He survived, but zookeepers decided to keep him away from Tamba.

1991/Windsor, Canada: A circus hand was killed by an elephant.

June 8, 1990/Reading, Pa.: During a Great American Circus show, an elephant attacked her trainer and went on a rampage, panicking the crowd and injuring one man.

June 1990/Sarasota, Fla.: A circus elephant crushed her trainer to death.

April 10, 1990/Oakdale, Calif.: An elephant giving rides threw the passengers off. The elephant began spinning and bumping into cars before she was brought under control. One passenger fell and was dragged 40 feet before being freed.

March 1990/Loxahatchee, Fla.: Trying to avoid a rampaging pachyderm, an elephant handler climbed under his truck, but the elephant used her trunk to grab the man's leg, drag him out from under the truck, and gore him with her tusks. The trainer was killed.

February 13, 1990/San Francisco, Calif.: An elephant keeper at the San Francisco Zoo suffered a fractured back when he was pushed into a moat by an elephant.

January 1990/Oakland, Calif.: An 18-year-old elephant crushed his handler to death.

1990/Japan: A keeper was killed by an elephant at the Cunna Safari Park.