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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.