THIS YEAR’S King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament will be held by the banks of Bangkok’s Chaophraya River from March 10-13.
The four-day event, sponsored by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, will feature 10 teams encompassing over 40 players, including Thai celebrities, professional horse polo players, New Zealand All Blacks rugby players and Thailand’s famous transgender cabaret team Miss Tiffany.
A total of 18 elephants will be given a break from their work in tourist-trekking camps in Pattaya or bought from unemployment in Surin to take part in the festival, during which they are given much needed food, essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event.
Now in its 14th year, the tournament has become one of the biggest charitable events in Southeast Asia.
It has raised almost US$1 million and donated to projects that better the lives of Thailand’s wild and domesticated elephant population, including continued support for research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children living with autism; donating a gantry to help lame elephants stand and a purpose -built elephant ambulance to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC), and donating an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to the Government Elephant Hospital in Krabi.
Other projects include funding farmer/elephant conflict mitigation projects in three Thai and one Tanzanian National Park; planting 4,000 trees to form an elephant proof fence in Thailand; fully funding the protection of 18,000 hectares of standing forest in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains; funding the roll out of children’s educational programs with the Thai Ministry to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand and funding the world’s first Target Training Positive Reinforcement Workshops teaching mahouts and trainers throughout Southeast Asia elephant friendly training methods.
The worst trekking camps can be tough for an elephant. In order to make money, mahouts are forced to work their elephants 10 – 12 hours a day.
Conversely, at home in Surin, unemployment means elephants are often left isolated from other elephants with a short chain on two legs 24 hours a day with no exercise or enrichment.
In both circumstances, the poverty of existence means their owners cannot afford to feed them anything close to their daily physical needs, emotional needs are forgotten, and shade and sufficient water are often overlooked.
The King’s Cup schedule is designed to give these trekking elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their ‘normal’ lives and ensure elephant rest time with interaction and enrichment that neither set of elephants gets in their daily lives.
The festival will have something for everyone including an opening parade, Children’s Educational Day, Ladies Day known as the ‘Bangkok Ascot’ and a wide range of fun elephant-related activities for the whole family.
Anantara has long been associated with elephant conservation efforts with the formation of The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which has performed over 40 rescues of elephants off the streets of Thailand, as well as bringing the hugely successful Elephant Parade to Bangkok, where 88 elephant statues were decorated by local and international celebrities and artists to honour Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 88th birthday, and will be auctioned off in a gala dinner in February 2016.
For more information on the 14th annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, visit www.anantaraelephantpolo.com.