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Fri, 9 March 2018

Thailand’s Jumbo Charity Event Benefits Elephants Nationwide

Since its inception, the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has built a reputation as a not-to-be-missed charity event that attracts visitors from all around the world.

The main goal of the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is to create real and lasting change for elephants in need in the Kingdom of Thailand today. The annual event was awarded a silver medal for Sports CSR Initiative of the Year at the Asia Sports Industry Awards in 2016.

The welfare of the elephants participating in the polo tournament is paramount, with strict rules in place to ensure that the pachyderms are well cared for at all times. Thanks to Thailand’s advanced micro-chipping programme for all legal domesticated elephants and research into DNA tagging, by imposing a “no micro-chip, no game” rule, Anantara guarantees that all elephants who play have been domestically bred and not captured from the wild or smuggled in from neighbouring countries.

Prayers at opening ceremony of 2018 Kings' Cup Elephant Polo in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture by Steven Howard. Click to enlarge.

Each elephant is limited to a maximum of half an hour play per day, with at least 90 minutes out relaxing or eating a well-balanced meal between each 14 minute game. Due to the nature of the game those 14 minutes of exercise are generally spread over a whole hour – even in a game with no stoppages there is a 15 minute break between halves.

In addition to the 30 rescued street elephants who now enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort’s onsite Elephant Camp, the annual event allows a further 20 young elephants to be taken off the streets 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 brutal for an elephant, walking through crowded tourist areas and busy roads for ten hours a night, forced to rest during the day 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.

Anantara always ensures that the elephants are treated as well as their two-legged guests, while the event also plays a crucial role in raising much needed funds to help protect all of Thailand’s elephants and their heritage. This important work is carried out by  Anantara’s own elephant charity – the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).

Through the generosity of participants and spectators at the lively annual charity auction and during the tournament, Anantara has raised approximately US$1.5 million to date which has gone to various charities that benefits the elephants of Thailand. These include 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).

Sharyin Stafford scores an amazing goal for Casillero del Diablo against the New Zealand All Blacks on the opening day of the 2018 King's Cup Elephant Polo in Bangkok, Thailand. Click to enlarge.

Funds from the 2017 event were donated to various projects including the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand which supports veterinary and educational projects to improve the year-round lives of elephants and mahouts in the Surin Province where ex-street elephants face ongoing hardship.

 The donations have also funded South East Asia’s first ever workshop to teach mahouts and vets the benefits of Environmental Enrichment to keep elephants happy as well as the construction of a watch tower in a village whose crops are raided by elephants, allowing villagers to watch and warn other villagers of approaching elephants in a safe manner for both people and elephants.

 Donations also funded a conservation education trip to a National Park for the children and next generation of hereditary mahouts to learn the importance of elephants in the wild; the transport of Thai elephant vets to international conferences; funding Thai Government aid to teach mahouts to act as veterinary assistants and provide basic first aid and other medical care to their elephants; as well as community based Human Elephant Conflict mitigation projects in two Thai and one Tanzanian National Parks and the purchase of equipment for anti-poaching rangers in a Cambodian National Park.

Other significant benefits from the money raised by the tournament include: the ongoing Thai Elephant Therapy Project which has been underway since 2009 in conjunction with Chiang Mai University’s Department of Occupational Therapy, with future clinics to include children with Down’s syndrome and other conditions now committed until the end of 2018 as well as the funding of Asia’s first workshop to show traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for captive elephants with additional workshops this year in Myanmar reaching teams responsible for over 200 elephants.

Pure delight on the face of Sharyin Stafford after she scored a truly amazing goal for Casillero del Diablo against the New Zealand All Blacks on the opening day of the 2018 King's Cup Elephant Polo in Bangkok, Thailand. Click to enlarge.

Past projects include the donation of a THB 500,000 gantry to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC) to help lame elephants stand which is still in operation; and the planting of an elephant corridor of 4,000 trees in Hua Hin to stop farmer vs. elephant conflicts.

A total of 20 unemployed ex-street elephants are taking part in the event, during which they will receive full veterinary checks from the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand, under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Thailand and the Department of Livestock Development.

 In addition, all elephants are given essential vitamins, food and care which are not available to them during their normal daily lives.

King's Cup Elephant Polo 2017 and Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation - Interview (March 2017)

Exclusive HD video interview with John Roberts, Group Director of Sustainability and Conservation, Minor Hotels Group.

PODCAST

See also: Pictures from 2017 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament and Pictures from 2017 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament as well as other HD Videos and Podcasts

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