#1 A result of big hearts
It started as a whimsical conversation between two sport lovers and philanthropists in the late ’90s. In 2001, the duo’s ideas evolved into a full-fledged charity tournament. Launched by Anantara Hua Hin Resort and Spa, the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is now one of the largest annual charity events in Thailand. Its first tournament saw Anantara rescue more than 50 street elephants—30 of which are now living comfortably at the Anantara Golden Triangle’s on-site Elephant Camp.
#2 Rescued elephants only
Also, because they are part of the tournament to have fun, they don’t undergo any form of training for the game. If they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves out on the field, they will not need to participate in the rest of the tournament. The 2017 tournament in Bangkok saw 25 young elephants taken off the streets and also featured night matches for the first time, to keep animals and guests cooler in the Thai summer.
#3 Food, and lots of it
While humans busk in the sun over mouthwatering food and thirst-quenching drinks from booths set up carnival-style at the tournament, the elephants are having their own feast. For the duration of the tournament, the gentle giants are given proper food and medical care. Before they are entered into the tournament, they are checked for a microchip. This ensures that the elephants were not caught from the wild.
#4 All for a good cause
The tournament has raised over US$1.4m for a variety of elephant charities that provide medical care and sustenance to Thailand’s elephant population, and employment and training to the mahouts. Since 2009, donations have also gone to funding the Thai Elephant Therapy Project, the world’s first ever elephant therapy programme created by the Chiang Mai University and the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, which researches on the rehabilitation benefits for autistic children.
(Related: What Happens At An Elephant Polo Tournament)