King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament

Trunks Fly, Funds Flow

Initiated in Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament has now grown into one of the biggest charitable events in Thailand. It’s raised USD 950,000 for projects to better the lives of Thailand’s elephant population.

Children get up close and personal with their new jumbo friend.

Children get up close and personal with their new jumbo friend | Photograp: Courtesy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

The 16th annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament was held early last month right on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The four-day event was a stunning success with lots of fun-filled activities for the guests, such as elephant polo matches, children’s education day, “Ladies Day”, and a Thai food festival with amazing dishes whipped up by Thailand’s “Iron Chefs”.

This year’s event raised over USD 1.7 million. The funds were donated to several projects to help better the lives of  Thailand’s wild and domesticated pachyderms. These included the world’s first Thai Elephant Assisted Autistic Therapy Project, positive reinforcement elephant training workshops, mahout community development initiatives and wild elephant conservation projects. Part of the funds also benefited a mobile blood centrifuge and elephant ambulance under the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC).

Among other organizations benefiting from the fundraiser was the Zoological Parks Organization of Thailand, which supports veterinary and educational projects to improve the well-being of elephants and mahouts in the northeastern province of Surin. The current situation is that ex-street elephants in that province are left stranded without jobs, heavily dependent on humans and cannot fend for themselves in their natural habitat. The money also helped to fund construction work for a watch tower in a village where crops are often prone to raids by elephants so that farmers are better warned of an approaching herb.

On the ball: An elephant enjoys the game as much as its riders.

On the ball: An elephant enjoys the game as much as its riders. | Photograph: Teerarat Yaemngamluea

Most importantly, the funds will support a government project that trains mahouts to become veterinary assistants. The project provides first aid and other medical care services to their elephants. The money will also go to community-based  Human Elephant Conflict mitigation projects in two Thai national parks and one national park in Tanzania. The funds will also be useful for rangers at a national park in Cambodia that badly needs anti-poaching equipment.

What made the event even more special was the fact that 20 unemployed ex-street elephants were seen receiving full veterinary checks by medical personnel from the Zoological Parks Organization of Thailand under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Thailand and the Department of Livestock Development. All the elephants in the event received essential vitamins, food and care, which are not available to them otherwise. It was indeed a great day of fun for both the jumbo animals and their human friends.

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Based in Bangkok, Ploy started her writing career as a food critic, and after 8 years of visiting restaurants around Bangkok she expands her writing genre to travel, fashion and architecture.