Whipped, chained, stalked by humans with guns—animals abused for human entertainment are fighting for their safety, their sanity, and, often, their very lives. These stories highlight the dangers of placing wild animals who’ve been pushed to the breaking point in close contact with the humans who exploit and abuse them. Payback can be hell, and these people learned the hard way that cornered animals eventually lash out.
Elephant Kills Trophy Hunter in Namibia
While tracking a herd of elephants in a private wildlife area, Jose Monzalvez—a hunter from Argentina—was trampled to death by an elephant.
— allAfrica.com (@allafrica) August 14, 2017
According to reports, one of the elephants in the herd charged Monzalvez before he and his group were able to find a spot to shoot from. The elephant who trampled him was reportedly the one the group had targeted to kill.
In May, a shot elephant fell on a trophy hunter, also killing him. Here’s hoping that these stories compel other safari leaders to start shooting animals with cameras, not guns.
Circus Trainer Is Attacked by Tiger as Children Watch
All day, every day, magnificent but stressed tigers are imprisoned by tawdry circuses and traveling shows, trained using whips and intimidation, locked inside cages, and denied everything that’s natural and important to them. Instead of the forest and their families, they know only the dreaded sting of the whip and are forced to perform tricks that they don’t understand—all for fleeting human amusement. That’s why it’s not surprising when captive tigers finally reach their limit and seize an opportunity to fight back.
That’s what happened when animal handler Vicenta Pages—who has connections to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—was grabbed and dragged by a tiger named Gandhi at the Pensacola Interstate Fair in October.Of course, Gandhi was made to pay the price for acting on his instincts, as Pages and another worker whipped him in the face more than two dozen times. Distraught children can be seen outside the fencing as the tiger is lashed again and again.
Singer Who Used Live Snakes as Props Is Killed by Cobra
When living beings such as snakes are used as props in shows, it can end in disaster for both them and the humans involved. There’s nothing glamorous about showbiz for these animals, who belong in their natural habitats and not in a stressful environment with bright lights and screaming music fans. One show went from unglamorous to deadly in April when Indonesian singer Irma Bule—who was known for using cobras, pythons, and other snakes as props during her shows—died 45 minutes after being bitten by a cobra she stepped on during one of her performances.
No amount of “training” can prevent terrified wild animals from behaving instinctively or defensively, and trainers and handlers cannot always protect themselves and the public.
Elephant Forced to Give Rides to Tourists Finally Snaps
In February, a Scottish man vacationing in Thailand was killed and his 16-year-old daughter was injured when the elephant that they were riding lashed out. Witnesses reported that shortly before the attack, the mahout (handler) had hit the animal several times with a bullhook, a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp hook at one end. Just a week earlier, a mahout at the same facility was caught on tape beating and taunting an elephant.
Many unsuspecting tourists don’t know what these animals are made to endure when they’re forced to give rides. This elephant reportedly struck the handler with his trunk, but it was the tourist who paid the ultimate price.
Thailand is the world’s largest promoter of elephant camps, where the barbaric phajaan ritual is used to break young elephants’ spirits and force them to submit to humans. The term literally means “breaking the love between,” referring to the bond between calves and their mothers. In these training facilities, still-nursing babies are torn away from their mothers, bound with ropes and steel cables, and immobilized in wooden cages. They’re beaten mercilessly for days and denied food, water, and sleep.
Panic Erupts as Lion Act Turns Deadly
Tigers aren’t the only big cats abused by the circus industry—handlers also use whips and intimidation to force lions to perform tricks. But it takes only a second for workers to lose control. Screams of terror broke out at an Egyptian circus performance in November when a man was attacked by a lion in front of a crowd.
Trainer Islam Shaheen later died from his injuries, and this wasn’t an isolated incident. Here in the U.S., at least 128 captive big cats and 24 humans have died (and another 270 humans have been injured) as a result of such incidents since 1990.
A Hunter Is Gored by the Antlers of the Elk He Just Shot
There’s nothing sporting about hunting. Real sports involve competition between consenting parties and don’t end with the deliberate killing of unwilling participants. It’s likely that most hunters don’t really think about the pain and terror that they inflict on animals—but every once in a while, they experience it firsthand.
In November, hunter Hunter Gary Heeter was apparently dragging an elk he’d just shot up a steep hill behind an ATV when the vehicle flipped over. The 69-year-old was sent flying backward and landed on the animal’s antlers. He reportedly had to be airlifted to a local hospital for treatment. Hopefully, his harrowing experience made him realize that there’s nothing “fun” about hunting trips when it’s your own life on the line.
Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
Forcing wild animals into close proximity with humans can have deadly consequences—for all involved. The safest—and kindest—choice that you can make is to steer clear of activities and venues that use animals for human entertainment. Vote with your feet and your wallet: Avoid circuses, marine parks, roadside zoos, rodeos, photo ops, and all other businesses that turn a profit from animal exploitation.
Partake in activities that don’t cause living beings harm or stress. Hunting and fishing not only affect the animals directly involved but also can harm other local wildlife and entire ecosystems. And it’s estimated that more than half a million animals are presently enslaved in the global tourism industry, so it’s crucial that you take your compassion with you on the road.
Whether in beautiful high-definition documentaries or through a pair of binoculars from a safe distance, we can peacefully observe and learn about wild animals without putting them or ourselves at risk. Remember: Always try to live and let live. Share this post with your friends, family, and social media followers. Let them know that nobody wins when animals are pushed to the breaking point.