News / Arts & Entertainment

Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephantsi
X
August 28, 2014 7:23 PM
Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event, now underway in Thailand (through Sunday), swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. The King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament in Samut Prakan is all for a good cause.

The star athletes of this tournament are 51 teenage females, each weighing about three tons (3,000 kilograms).

Mounted on each elephant on the polo field are two relatively miniscule humans - the mahout, who steers, and the player, who gives directions.

This is the 13th year the tournament, created and organized by the Anantara resort hotel chain, has been played in Thailand. The only other games played under the auspices of the World Elephant Polo Association are the annual world championships in Nepal.

  • An elephant competing for Citibank moves its trunk toward the goal line, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • A prayer ceremony opens the elephant polo match. Director Tim Boda is flanked by Thailand's last remaining Kru Ba Yai (elephant spirit men), 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28,
  • A Thai dance troupe poses prior to the elephant polo match, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • Dancers performing to kick off the elephant polo match, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • The stick for elephant polo measures two meters long, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • A monk blesses the elephants prior to the start of the polo match, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • This year's lineup is composed of 51 elephants, all relatively docile teenage females, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • The female teenage pachyderms on parade prior to the start of the annual polo event, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).
  • Two elephants head for the ball in a game played at a much slower pace than horse polo, 2014 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Aug. 28, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA).

For those who also participate in the more conventional version on horseback, the slower game of elephant polo requires a significant adjustment, as Dubai-based player Wael Soueid, explains.

“First, you don’t have control of the elephant because there’s a mahout who is guiding it," he said. "Second, is the language because the mahout speaks only Thai. And the stick is very long. It’s two meters long while the stick of [horse] polo is at 1.20. So that’s a big difference.”

These captive-born, super-size athletes are bred as working elephants and loaned to the corporate teams by their owners, allowing the intelligent mammals a change of pace.

Tournament organizer Tim Boda says the females seem to catch on to the spirit of competition.

“A lot of these elephants have been playing now for years. I do not speak elephant but watching them, first of all, it looks like they’re having a whole lot of fun," he said. "It may well be that they actually to understand the rules. Who knows?”

Spectators can enjoy the matches while chomping on gourmet wagyu beef burgers, sipping champagne and puffing cigars. But this is more than just a spectacle for the elite. The annual tournament raises money for the care of Thailand’s domesticated and wild elephants.

Proceeds from this year’s tournament are expected to take total donations over the $1 million mark.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”