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Tarka the Elephant: Uncovering new horror stories about Elephants

From Kim Stallwood
May 2024

Writing about Tarka and Topsy brings into focus that these elephants are more than just a circus act that entertains us for a few minutes. If we are to move beyond our confused and contradictory relationship with animals, we must learn to see them as individual sentient beings with biographies of their own.

Elephant Tarka

Researching and writing the biography of Topsy reveals a disturbing history of elephant abuse. Friends and colleagues send me reports they’ve discovered knowing my interest. I add them to my growing elephant library. Many of these elephants and their stories are new to me. I suspect they’re unknown to most people. We must remember these tragedies if we’re to free elephants from our enslavement.

Buster, whom I went to secondary (high or senior) school with, recently emailed me about Tarka. The reports don’t make clear whether she was an Asian or African elephant or which circus she performed for. But they do state that in 1949 when she died, she was fifty years old, weighed three tons, and was worth £3,000 [$3,759] (about £145k today [$182,00]).

It’s not enough to write Tarka died. She was killed. Or to be precise, murdered. As I believe, like Topsy and many other captive elephants, she was innocent of any crimes.


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Posted on May 10, 2024
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