BANGKOK – Teams of elephants enjoyed a mammoth feast in the Thai capital on Thursday morning before taking to the polo pitch for the first day of one of Southeast Asia’s most popular charity events.
The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament sees former working elephants compete in a series of high-octane matches by the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.
The pachyderm participants were treated to a buffet of fresh fruit on Thursday before battling it out on the polo pitch to the delight of a cheering crowd, an epa journalist reported.
Ten teams – made up of 30 elephants and 40 guest riders, including celebrities, supermodels and sports stars – will compete in the four-day tournament in an effort to raise money to support Thailand’s wild and domesticated elephants.
Now in its 15th year, the games have raised more than $1.3 million for elephant-related causes, including conservation activities and the world’s first elephant-assisted autistic therapy project.
The event’s organizer, Anantara Hotels and Resorts, says the welfare of the competing elephants is central to the success of the tournament.
“By imposing a ‘no micro-chip, no game’ rule, Anantara guarantees that all participating elephants have been domestically bred and not captured from the wild or smuggled in from neighbouring countries,” the hotel group said in a statement earlier this year.
The pachyderms are also given veterinary checks, food and drinks, and vitamin supplements for the duration of the games.