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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukraine PM Warns Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”