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Elephants take part in the opening of 2017 The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament

Bangkok, Mon Mar 13 2017
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About 30 elephants took part in the opening of Thailand’s annual elephant polo tournament, The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, in Bangkok on Thursday last week.

The tournament, now in its 15th year, is a charity event to raise money to help wild and domesticated elephants. It brings polo players from around the world looking for a different challenge. Asian elephants can weigh more than five tons and move at more than 25 kilometres an hour.

Mahouts handle the elephants while the players try to strike the ball with a stick that is much longer than the one used when playing on a pony. The ball is the same size as a regular polo ball. “A lot of my experience lately has been rodeo,” said Canadian Adam Janikowski, one of the players. “I don’t think I ever want to do rodeo events with any of the elephants.”

Elephant polo divides conservationists. Some say it is cruel. Others say it has helped to raise funds to protect the animals and has highlighted the problems they face through habitat loss, poaching and abuse.

Organisers said the King’s Cup has raised more than 46 million baht, circa USD1.3 million, over 15 years to help wild and domesticated elephants.

As part of the event, the elephants are treated to a buffet of fruits and vegetables as a reward for their labours.

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