BANGKOK, 15 March 2018: The organiser of the 16th Kings Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has now confirmed that six mahouts were dismissed for beating elephants that participated in the tournament, last weekend.
The event is organised annually by Anantara Hotels and Resorts, a Minor Group hospitality company, headquartered in Bangkok fielding an extensive portfolio of hotels worldwide, under management and ownership.
In its first statement quoted by Khao Sod Thai news channel, 12 March, the organisers admitted that a single mahout had been dismissed, while claiming it was an isolated incident.
The polo tournament held, 8 March, raised THB 4 million for projects related to elephant welfare this year. Over 16 years it has contributed around THB 55 million to welfare projects and pioneered a campaign to improve the treatment of elephants in Thailand and Asia.
But now in response to compelling evidence presented in a PETA video, Anantara Hotels Resorts confirmed six mahouts were relieved of their duties for their brutal handling of the elephants used during the charity tournament.
Prior to each tournament, mahouts are required to confirm that they will comply with a strict code of conduct when they are selected to participate in the tournament.
“The mahouts who were identified in the footage clearly breached this agreement and were expelled from the tournament,” Anantara Hotels and Resorts stated.
The dismissals could be interpreted as a token gesture as the tournament was well underway, or concluded, by the time the abuse was exposed on camera.
The rogue mahouts are now likely return to their hometowns and continue to abuse elephants unless strict laws are enforced to protect elephants year-round, not just when a video exposes abuse during an event. It falls to government agencies to investigate elephant camps across the country and ensure they comply with laws on the animal protection.
In response to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA) expose, the organisers and main sponsors of the event confirmed that they were “upset by the video and strongly condemned the mistreatment of any elephant at any time.”
Anantara Hotels & Resorts has curated the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament over the past sixteen years.
The tournament organisers claims one of the objectives of the event is to raise money to educate mahouts throughout Southeast Asia that unethical methods used to control their elephants are unacceptable and endanger both the elephant and the mahout.
Funds raised over the last five years have gone towards Target Training Positive Reinforcement Workshops for mahouts.
“We recognise that this approach is a key initiative in the effort to end such practices and will take time to successfully implement. To date, these workshops have reached over 400 mahouts, veterinarians and trainers across seven Southeast Asian countries who are responsible for thousands of elephants,” Anantara in its statement explained.
PETA Video footage