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 to enjoy a uniquely Thai elephant experience.
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.
The chosen elephants must be young, preferably under 20 and still at an age where they will thoroughly enjoy the game but large enough to carry a player with ease.
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 our 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).
Since 2009 donations have also gone to funding the world’s first ever elephant therapy programme to research the rehabilitation benefits for autistic children. The Thai Elephant Therapy Project (TETP) was created in conjunction with Chiang Mai University and the TECC, initially allowing a further five elephants to be rescued off the streets of Bangkok, rented and trained as assistant therapists for autistic children. The program now runs free therapy sessions for Thai children every year.
Other significant benefits from money raised has gone to building the first elephant hospital in Krabi in the southern part of Thailand; research and tree planting to build elephant corridors in Kui Buri so there are no elephant/farmer conflicts; funding the first educational computer application for children to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand and funding Asia’s first workshop to show traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for domesticated elephants.