PLANS ARE WELL ADVANCED for the 12th edition of the hugely popular King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, set for the royal seaside town of Hua Hin.
he four-day festival, which runs from Aug. 31 to Sept.1, will be held at Hua Hin’s Suriyothai Army Base – a 20-minute drive from Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa, a village-style resort located on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand on 14 acres of landscaped mature gardens and lagoon pools at a beachfront location.
The festival has something for everyone, including a spectacular opening parade, celebrity matches, Chang Noi Day (Children’s Day) with a baby elephant camp and fun fair, and this year for the first time, Ladies Day with prizes for the best dressed.
A Moulin Rouge themed Auction Gala Dinner tops off fund-raising efforts, with all proceeds donated to various projects for the betterment of Thailand’s elephants.
Admission is free, and you’ll also be able to rub shoulders with European and Asian royalty, international sporting stars and local celebrities.
This year will see Thailand’s defending champions King Power team go head to head with the New Zealand Rugby All Black’s Robin Brooke, Olo Brown and Charles Riechelmann, European royals Prince Carl-Eugen Oettingen-Wallerstein and his wife Princess Anna and daughter Princess Joanna.
Miss Tiffany Thailand will also be adding a hint of fun and a lot of colour to the event with a full team of transgender beauty queens playing to win as well performing at the Gala Dinner.
The tournament was introduced to Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas and has grown to become one of the biggest charitable events in Thailand. The event has raised almost US$600,000 to date for projects that better the lives of Thailand’s elephant population, including housing for the mahouts and families, shelters for the elephants and a mobile blood centrifuge and elephant ambulance for the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC).
In addition to the 30 rescued street elephants who now enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, the annual event allows a further 50 young elephants to be taken off the streets for the two week period during the tournament, providing them with a native forest environment, the best food possible, as well as the only proper veterinary check and vitamins they receive all year.
Street life can be tough for an elephant, walking through crowded tourist areas and busy roads for 10 hours a night, forced to rest during the day on small green spaces within the cities, often without shade and water. The King’s Cup schedule is deliberately designed to give these elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their “normal” lives.
Since 2009, donations have also gone to funding the world’s first ever elephant therapy program to research the rehabilitation benefits for autistic children. The Thai Elephant Therapy Project (TETP) was created in conjunction with Chiang Mai University and the TECC, initially allowing a further five elephants to be rescued off the streets of Bangkok, rented and trained as assistant therapists for autistic children. The program now runs free therapy sessions for Thai children every year.
Other significant benefits from money raised has gone to building the first elephant hospital in Krabi in the southern part of Thailand; research and tree planting to build elephant corridors in Kui Buri so there are no elephant/farmer conflicts; funding the first educational computer application for children to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand, and funding Asia’s first workshop to show traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for domesticated elephants.