The tournaments have raised nearly a million US dollars, which has helped to fund research clinics, hospitals, vehicles, forest protection and educational programmes. The tournaments have also helped to increase the profile of elephant welfare. This year’s event also gave the participating elephants and mahouts (handlers) a very welcome break from their normal work on trekking routes in Thailand. The tournament allowed these beautiful animals the chance to recuperate, have veterinary checkups and vitamin supplements as well as to have fun interacting with other elephants in a more relaxed environment.
Ten teams from across the globe took part in the four day 2016 tournament. Players included local celebrities, rugby players from the New Zealand All Black’s and professional horse polo players. Alongside the polo, spectators had the chance to visit a variety of stalls, interact with the elephants and enjoy the opening day parade. There was even an Ascot style Ladies’ Day judging where the best outfits were awarded prizes.
The overall atmosphere of the tournament was one of friendliness and fun. All the teams played to win of course, but no one forgot that they were there to entertain. Everywhere you looked there were huge grins on people’s faces, hands clapping enthusiastically and cheers of delight whenever a goal went in for any team.
The whole event was great fun, and while events are held in various parts of Asia, it somehow felt uniquely Thai. Certainly for a European interloper like myself who was completely new to the sport. All I can I say is I’m looking forward to next year’s event. Make sure you check it out.
For more information on the tournaments and the various charities it supports visit www.anantaraelephantpolo.com