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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.