Thailand’s flagship Anantara elephant polo event arrives to the riverside
While it is thankfully a very rare thing to see elephants roaming the streets of Bangkok these days (much thanks to the efforts of this very tournament as well as Anantara Hotels & Resorts’ ongoing engagement), selected elephants will be transported into the city for a very special occasion come 10-13 March 2016. A feast awaits those lucky hand-picked elephants, as well as a game they very much like to partake in.
During those days in March the fourteenth edition of The Anantara’s King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament takes place, for the first time in the heart of the city and at an ideal location that brings the elephants to the banks of the for visitors to Bangkok so well-known Chaophraya River.
With the river being a destination in its own right – for Bangkok sunset photos overlooking Wat Arun, for riverside dining and drinking, and for stays at five star and other distinct hotels – visitors also use Chaophraya River as means for transportation to a multitude of riverside attractions and sightseeing.
The river also being a natural place for elephants to visit for having baths, the elephant polo tournament will in addition fittingly take place adjacent to Antara Riverside Bangkok Resort, part of this brand that even has an entire resort dedicated top elephants; namely Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort.
During the 2016 edition those who choose to stay at Antara Riverside Bangkok Resort can book a special package, which includes access to the tournament next door.
Anantara’s King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament 2016 at Bangkok’s scenic riverside promises to have a range ele-fantastic fun for the whole family.
Beyond being a lifestyle event, drawing a bespoke crowd and many brand sponsors, the tournament has become one of the biggest charitable events in Southeast Asia. Almost US$1 million has been raised and donated to projects that better the lives of Thailand’s wild and domesticated elephant population, including continued support for research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children living with autism; donating a gantry to help lame elephants stand and a purpose built elephant ambulance to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC), and donating an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to the Government Elephant Hospital in Krabi.
Other projects include funding farmer/elephant conflict mitigation projects in three Thai and one Tanzanian National Park; planting 4,000 trees to form an elephant proof fence in Thailand; fully funding the protection of 18,000 hectares of standing forest in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains; funding the roll out of children’s educational programmes with the Thai Ministry to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand and funding the world’s first Target Training Positive Reinforcement Workshops teaching mahouts and trainers throughout Southeast Asia elephant friendly training methods.
This year’s event will have 10 teams encompassing over 40 players, including Thai celebrities, professional horse polo players, New Zealand All Blacks rugby players and Thailand’s famous transgender cabaret team Miss Tiffany.
A total of 18 elephants will be given a break from their work in tourist trekking camps in Pattaya or bought from unemployment in Surin to take part in the festival, during which they are given much needed food, essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event.
Domestic elephants are micro-chipped by the Thai government to show that they have not been caught from the wild. The worst trekking camps can be tough for an elephant. In order to make money, mahouts are forced to work their elephants 10 – 12 hours a day. Conversely, at home in Surin, unemployment means elephants are often left isolated from other elephants with a short chain on two legs 24 hours a day with no exercise or enrichment. In both circumstances, the poverty of existence means their owners cannot afford to feed them anything close to their daily physical needs, emotional needs are forgotten, and shade and sufficient water are often overlooked. The King’s Cup schedule is designed to give these trekking elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their ‘normal’ lives and ensure elephant rest time with interaction and enrichment that neither set of elephants gets in their daily lives.
The four day festival will have something for everyone including an impressive Opening Parade, Children’s Educational Day, Ladies Day known as the ‘Bangkok Ascot’ and a wide range of fun elephant related activities for the whole family.
Anantara has long been associated with elephant conservation efforts with the formation of The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which has performed over 40 rescues of elephants off the streets of Thailand, as well as bringing the hugely successful Elephant Parade to Bangkok where 88 elephant statues were decorated by local and international celebrities and artists to honour Thailand’s HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 88th birthday and will be auctioned off in a gala dinner in February 2016.