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UAE Sends Team to Compete in King’s Cup in Thailand

Anantara Hotels & Resorts in Abu Dhabi has announced that a team of five has been selected to represent the United Arab Emirates in this year’s acclaimed King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament to be held in Bangkok 10-13 March, 2016 on the Chophraya riverside adjacent to the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort.


The annual tournament, now in its fourteenth year, has become one of the largest charitable events in Southeast Asia.   In the years since its inception in 2001 in Hua Hin, the King’s Cup has raised near US$1,000,000 which has been donated to projects that better the lives of Thailand’s wild and domesticated elephant population, including research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children living with autism; donating a gantry to help lame elephants stand and a purpose built elephant ambulance to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre as well as donating an All Terrain Vehicle to the Government Elephant Hospital in Krabi, Thailand.



World’s Only Elephant Therapy Project for Autistic Children


The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is Anantara’s largest charity event which funds the world’s only elephant therapy project for Autistic children. 


“The Thai Elephant Therapy Project is a world first and it showcases Thailand as a pioneer in the support of research into alternative therapy solutions”, said Anantara’s Director of Elephants and Conservation Efforts, Mr John Roberts.


“Results from the project show that children displayed improved adaptive behaviour, sensory processing, postural control, balance and improved social skills, while their parents also reported perceived improvement and satisfaction with the programme.”


Elephants are a proud cultural symbol of Thailand’s history. Nothing but the utmost respect is given to these pachyderms and all proceeds from the tournament are used to ensure a comfortable lifestyle, sustenance, medical treatment and employment, as well as mahout training.


Domestic elephants are micro-chipped by the Thai government to show that they have not been caught from the wild.  The worst trekking camps can be tough for an elephant.  In order to make money, mahouts are forced to work their elephants 10 – 12 hours a day.  Conversely, at home in Surin, unemployment means elephants are often left isolated from other elephants with a short chain on two legs 24 hours a day with no exercise or enrichment.  In both circumstances, the poverty of existence means their owners cannot afford to feed them anything close to their daily physical needs, emotional needs are forgotten, and shade and sufficient water often overlooked.  The King’s Cup schedule is designed to give these trekking elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their ‘normal’ lives and ensure elephant rest time with interaction and enrichment that neither set of elephants receive in their daily lives.


A total of 18 elephants will be given a break from their work in tourist trekking camps in Pattaya or street life in Surin, to take part in this year’s tournament, during which they are well fed and receive essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care.



The UAE Team


The five-strong UAE team will be once again captained by Wael Soueid, Area General Manager of Anantara Hotels & Resorts in Abu Dhabi. 


Wael remarked, “We are very excited to be representing the United Arab Emirates in this year’s King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament.  Joining me on the team is Steve Thompson, Stuart Allan, Kristin Grube and my colleague Amer Braik.”


Despite a personal competitive streak, Wael clarifies, “This event is less about the sport and more about raising awareness about the plight of elephants in Thailand.   We are very proud to be able to be part of this amazing fundraising effort.  Because it is exciting for spectators and highly entertaining for the players the event attracts enormous media attention globally, which goes hand in hand with education and awareness.”


Joining the Anantara Arabian Knights on the polo field are an additional nine teams including Audemars Piquet, Citibank, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and JW Blue.   The 40 players comprises Thai celebrities, professional horse-back polo players like those from the UAE’s Anantara Arabian Knights, the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby players and members of Thailand’s famous cabaret Miss Tiffany.


The four day festival will have something for everyone including an impressive Opening Parade, Children’s Educational Day, Ladies Day known as the ‘Bangkok Ascot’ and a wide range of fun elephant related activities for the whole family.



How can local UAE business get involved?     

While the corporate sponsors of the overall event are in place, The Anantara Arabian Knights are seeking a team sponsor which will receive branding opportunities and a range of special privileges including accommodation and invitations to the charity gala dinner in Bangkok.   Interested parties should contact Leoan Canuday at lcanuday@anantara.com

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