The annual tournament, now in its thirteenth year, has become one of the biggest charitable events in South East Asia. Last years event which had 16 teams encompassing over 50 players, including Thai supermodels, professional horse polo players, the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team and Thailands famous transgender cabaret team Miss Tiffanys was a far cry from the small two teamed event back when it started in 2001. Over US$ 750,000 has been raised and donated to projects that better the lives of Thailands wild and domesticated elephant population.
Fundraising from last years event has been donated to a number of projects in Thailand including supporting research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children living with autism; building the first elephant hospital in Krabi in the southern part of Thailand and donating a gantry to help lame elephants stand to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC).
Other projects include planting 4,000 trees to create elephant corridors in Kui Buri to help avoid elephant/farmer conflicts; funding the roll out of childrens educational programmes with the Thai Ministry to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand, and funding workshops showing traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for domesticated elephants.
A total of 50 street elephants will take part in this years tournament, during which they are well fed, provided with a native forest environment, and receive essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event. Street life and unemployment can be tough for an elephant, walking through crowded tourist areas and busy roads for ten hours a night, forced to rest during the day on small green spaces within the cities, often without shade and water. The Kings Cup schedule is deliberately designed to give these elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their normal lives.