Elephants have been admired and loved by humans throughout time. From the beginning, elephants have been revered for their large size and majestic mannerisms. Despite their great size however, elephants are known to be gentle creatures.
In Bangkok, the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, held yearly in March receives world-wide coverage with press flying in from all corners of the planet to cover this unique four day charitable & social event. Through the generosity of participants and spectators at the lively King’s Cup annual charity auction and during the tournament, Anantara, the organizer, raised a whopping 4 million baht this year bringing the total amount raised throughout the life of the tournament to approximately US$1.7 million dollars.
The main goal of the Tournament is to create real and lasting change for elephants in need.
Funds from the 2017 King’s Cup were donated to various projects including the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand which supports veterinary and educational projects to improve the year-round lives of elephants and mahouts in the Surin Province where ex-street elephants face ongoing hardship.
The donations have also funded South East Asia’s first ever workshop to teach mahouts and vets the benefits of Environmental Enrichment to keep elephants happy as well as the construction of a watch tower in a village whose crops are raided by elephants, allowing villagers to watch and warn other villagers of approaching elephants in a safe manner for both people & elephants.
Raised funds were also used on a conservation education trip for the children of mahouts, the next generation of hereditary mahouts, to learn the importance of elephants in the wild. Additionally, money was used for the transport of Thai elephant vets to international conferences; funding Thai Government aid to teach mahouts to act as veterinary assistants and provide basic first aid and other medical care to their elephants as well as community based Human Elephant Conflict mitigation projects in two Thai and one Tanzanian National Parks and the purchase of equipment for anti-poaching rangers in a Cambodian National Park.
The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, or GTAEF, as it is known, is the Anantara’s Elephant Charity arm. The GTAEF strongly believes that in an ideal world all elephants would be wild. This is unfortunately not the case, so until we reach that point, the GTAEF works to assist captive elephants, improving their lives and welfare, while also taking part in conservation and wild elephant programs to ensure the survival of the wild herd.
Over 30 elephants have been rescued from Thailand’s city streets, accompanied by their entire mahout family and provided with a place to live and grow. English lessons are arranged for the mahouts and their wives, education is made available for their children, and a silk worm business provides the wives with 100% of the profits made from the sales of their wares.
In addition to performing street rescues, the GTAEF cooperates with the Thai government and other organizations in projects supporting research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children living with autism. They have helped equip the first elephant hospital in Krabi by donating a gantry to help lame elephants stand, providing a mobile blood centrifuge and they have donated a purpose-built elephant ambulance to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC).
The GTAEF has also built the world’s only research facility dedicated to scientifically researching elephant intelligence and behavior.
Working through international partners and the Cambodian Government, the GTAEF has, since 2013, funded the protection of an 18,000 hectare elephant corridor of standing forest in the Cardamom Mountains.
Other significant benefits from the money raised includes the funding of Asia’s first workshop to show traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for captive elephants with additional workshops this year in Myanmar reaching teams responsible for over 200 elephants. They also planted an elephant corridor of 4,000 trees in Hua Hin to stop farmer vs. elephant conflicts.
The Anantara, and its parent company Minor International, have a culture of caring about elephants. This is due in large part to their CEO & Founder, Bill Heinecke who has an affinity for these gentle giants. According to Bill, “Elephants are, in many ways, just like people, the average lifespan of an elephant is around 60–70 years and you don’t really begin working as an elephant until age 15 or 16. Family is very important to them too.” He went on to say, “Chances are if you buy the elephant from the mahout, he would just go into the wild and get another elephant, so we provide education, housing and a livelihood for the mahouts and their families.”
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