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2009 King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament to Take Place 23-29 March

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The highly popular King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament will take place this year from March 23 to March 29 in the northernmost region of Thailand known as the Golden Triangle.

This year’s event is once again sponsored by Audemars Piguet - one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious watchmakers - and will see 12 teams go trunk to trunk to win the coveted King's Cup trophy.

An opening parade and blessing ceremony will be held in Chiang Saen town on March 23 to showcase the culture of the Golden Triangle region with northern traditional-style dancers, hill-tribe villagers in traditional costume, elephant spirit men (Khru Ba Yai), and colourfully decorated pachyderms. The parade will mark the kick-off of the weeklong competition held on the banks of the Ruak River which divides Thailand from Burma.

During the first five years of the tournament, the event took place in the Royal seaside town of Hua Hin before moving to the native home of elephants in 2006 – the Golden Triangle.

The tournament was introduced to Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Resorts and is a charitable event that raises money for the country’s National Elephant Institute in Lampang, northern Thailand.

In just seven years the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has gone from a small two-day event with six teams into a week-long extravaganza, which in 2008 featured 12 teams from four continents, encompassing 40 players from at least 15 countries.

Through its own Elephant Camp located within the grounds of the Anantara Resort Golden Triangle, the property’s focus on the future of Thailand’s pachyderm population forms an integral part of the resort’s operations.

On an ongoing basis, resident Elephant Camp Director, John Roberts, works closely with the Thai government’s Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang to develop Anantara’s camp as an elephant sanctuary.

To date the tournament has raised over US$200,000 for the National Elephant Institute, which provides medical care, sustenance, employment, and mahout training to Thailand’s elephant population. In 2008 the funds were used to run the custom build ambulance that was donated at the opening ceremony of the most recent tournament.

 It is estimated that Thailand has around 2,500 domesticated elephants and 1,500 wild elephants. This is down from an elephant population of around 50,000 in 1950 and 100,000 in 1900.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) fully endorses the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament, having identified it as one of the country’s prime annual special events. It will take place in the grounds of Anantara Resort Golden Triangle, and spectator entrance is free.

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