Mahouts fired for cruelty

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.

Chairman of the parent company Minor Group, William Heinecke, at the time, was quoted saying “that one case of animal mistreatment does not merit cancelling the annual event.”

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


  1. This abuse is inexcusable. No animal should ever be hit, jabbed, and mistreated in this horrible way. I feel for these elephants.

  2. It’s no isolated incident. Elephants are routinely beaten. It’s not like these majestic animals play polo, give rides, wear silly costumes, or perform frightening circus-style stunts because they want to. Trainers beat them with bullhooks and other cruel tools until they become fearful and feel forced to submit.

  3. Firing one mahout is not going to stop this systematic cruelty against elephants. All mahouts use excessively violent training tactics, including beating elephants until their spirits are broken, and dolling out a lifetime of physical punishment threats and domination. This polo match and any other “attraction” that features elephants, such as circuses, zoos and rides perpetuate this vicious industry of abuse.

  4. The cruelty captured here is routine whenever elephants are used for entertainment. In order to make them submit to being ridden, elephants’ spirits must first be “broken” through violent means such as chaining and beatings. They are often kept constantly chained and shackled when they aren’t being ridden, and as the disturbing video footage shows, they are violently beaten with sharp bullhooks. It’s time for this cruel spectacle to end. We have better ways to entertain ourselves.

  5. Firing the abusers simply does not go far enough. The resort must end these cruel spectacles. Period. Tormenting elephants in the name of “charity” is reprehensible.

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