Tai (elephant)

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SpeciesAsian elephant[1]
BornNovember 4, 1968 (age 49)
Known forThe films Operation Dumbo Drop, Larger than Life and Water for Elephants.
Weight3600 kg (8,000 lb) (1995)[1]
4200 kg (9,200 lb) (2011)[2]
Height269 cm (8 ft 10 in) (8' 10")

Tai (born November 4, 1968) is an Asian elephant best known for playing Bo Tat in the film Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), Vera in Larger than Life (1996) and Rosie in Water for Elephants (2011). Tai is owned by Have Trunk Will Travel, Inc., a privately funded organization that generates income through elephant rides, shows and events, as well as film and commercial appearances.


Tai's first film appearance was a minor role in The Jungle Book (1994), where she scares off some poachers. Tai followed this up playing the major role of Bo Tat in Operation Dumbo Drop in 1995.[1][4] The American Humane Association rated the treatment of animals in the film as acceptable.[1] The scene in which Tai is sedated she is actually just obeying her trainers instructions to lie down. The sounds of her snoring in the film is not actually coming from Tai, but was dubbed in during post-production. All scenes that show Tai in danger were carefully staged, and the boat in which she travels in the film was pre-tested to make sure it would support her 8,000 pound (3600 kg) weight. To ensure she remained healthy, all of Tai's food, drinking water, and even her bathing water, was shipped from the U.S. to Thailand, where filming was taking place.[1]

Tai played the major role of Vera in the 1996 comedy Larger than Life alongside Bill Murray,[5][6][7] and had a minor role in George of the Jungle in 1997, where she can be seen being ridden by Brendan Fraser and Leslie Mann, and again with Brendan Fraser in Tweety Bird's jungle in Looney Tunes: Back in Action in 2002.

Tai's performance in Water for Elephants in 2011 was praised.[8] It was the second time Tai, Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson had all worked on the same film, as all three had been filmed in Vanity Fair in 2004, though Pattinson's part was edited out of the final cut.[2]

One of Tai's paintings as well as an autographed poster for Water for Elephants was auctioned off on eBay to raise awareness of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus.[2] The money Tai raised from the auction was given to the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) which distributed it to the appropriate labs and research facilities actively working to find a cure for EEHV.[9]


In 2008 Tai, along with Kitty, another elephant owned by Have Trunk Will Travel, appeared in Britney Spears music video Circus. Animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) issued a press release condemning Spears for using "cruelly trained lions and elephants". Have Trunk Will Travel responded, saying, "A representative [from the American Humane Association] was on the set of the Britney Spears 'Circus' video with our elephants, Tai and Kitty, to ensure their safety and welfare [...] Britney, the director, producers and the entire crew were respectful of the elephants' needs and comfort and a pleasure to work with."[10]

In 2009 Tai appeared in the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop as part of his 2006 Barely Legal art show for which she was painted pink and gold[11] with non-toxic paint. PETA called the display animal cruelty.[2]

Water for Elephants[edit]

In the film Water for Elephants the elephant Rosie, who Tai portrays, is severely abused. A spokesperson from the AHA assured people that all scenes of abuse in the film were the work of special effects and CGI, and that the moaning and crying sounds that Tai is seen making on film were audio tracks, and were not actually made by Tai.[12]

Controversy erupted, however, regarding concerns Tai was mistreated prior to filming.[4][13] A video released by the Animal Defenders International (ADI) in 2011 shows footage of Tai allegedly being shocked with handheld stun guns and beaten around the body and legs with bull hooks, while in the care of Have Trunk Will Travel in 2005. The ADI contacted AHA, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films and the statements being made which effectively endorse the use of performing animals.[13][14]

Have Trunk Will Travel responded to the video stating, "The video shows heavily edited and very short snippets, obviously taken surreptitiously six years ago, purporting mistreatment of our elephants. If there was truly any abuse going on why wait six minutes, much less six years?" and added "None of the footage being shown was taken during Tai's training for Water for Elephants."[15]


When the 2011 film Zookeeper was released, PETA protested against alleged animal cruelty in the film's production.[16][17] Protesters held various posters including stills of the footage the ADI released showing Tai being struck with bull hooks in 2005.[16] Tai was reported to be featured in the film[16] however the film's director, Frank Coraci, denied using any elephants from Have Trunk Will Travel in filming.[17] The elephant used in the film is Tai's Have Trunk Will Travel herd mate, Rosie.



  1. ^ a b c d e "Operation Dumbo Drop". American Humane Association. May 24, 1995. Archived from the original on February 23, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Five Film Facts: 'Water for Elephants'". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  3. ^ Wyatt, Edward. A Splashy Los Angeles Debut by Banksy - Design - New York Times, Published: September 16, 2006, retrieved December 2012
  4. ^ a b "'Water for Elephants' Elephant Was Abused in 2005, Says Animal Rights Group". hollywoodreporter.com. May 9, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 1, 1996). "Larger Than Life". rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (November 1, 1996). "Larger Than Life (1996)". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  7. ^ Berardinelli, James (1996). "Larger Than Life". reelviews.net. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  8. ^ Errigo, Angie. "Water For Elephants". Empire (film magazine). Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "2012 Elephant Conservation and Research Funding Support". elephantconservation.org. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  10. ^ Montgomery, James (December 9, 2008). "Britney Spears' 'Circus' Video Taken To Task By PETA, But Trainers Insist Animals Were Treated Well". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  11. ^ Bowes, Peter (September 14, 2006). "'Guerrilla artist' Banksy hits LA". BBC. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  12. ^ "Was 'Elephant's' pachyderm treated humanely on set?". MSNBC. April 22, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "Given electric shocks and beaten with hooks: Shocking new video shows mistreatment of Water For Elephants star Tai". Daily Mail. May 10, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  14. ^ "Movie Star Electric Shocked". ADI. May 7, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  15. ^ Griffiths, Ian J (May 10, 2011). "Elephant trainers accused of abusing animal star of Water for Elephants". The Guardian. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  16. ^ a b c "'Zookeeper' Premiere Picketed By PETA, Critiqued By Film Critics". The Huffington Post. July 10, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  17. ^ a b Gonzales, Sandra (July 7, 2011). "PETA protests at 'Zookeeper' premiere. Director says animals were treated 'with love and respect'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 5, 2013.

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