Elephant Polo 1996

by Laurie F. Jones

Welcome to this account of the 15th World Elephant Polo Tournament and connected adventures. You can select any heading below to jump into the middle, or just click here to begin the story!

The Travel

The River Chao Phraya is dirty and brown and faintly malodorous. We sputtered past a series of hotels and shacks, Naval facilities and vegetable markets, heavy equipment and greenery, warehouses and Buddhist temples. Bangkok appears to know no zoning.

The School that Alf Built

The school teaches kindergarten through eighth grade children. After Alf and his family posed in front of the dedication plaque, we were shown the classrooms. They were very clean and the children were very well-behaved, probably as much out of the honor of the occasion as discipline.

The Lodge

I was continually indulging my senses at Tiger Tops, whether it was sitting by the fire listening to the surrounding laughter, ravenously eating those mouth-wateringly good lunches on the lawn in the hot afternoon sun, or sitting in the mist at dawn breathing the moist cool air.

The World Elephant Polo Association

Apparently the only controversy surrounding Alf’s nomination as the newest member of the WEPA Committee (“The Committee”), as well as honorary Vice President of the U.S. Chapter of WEPA was which Committee member was to go on record as seconding the nominating motion.

The Tournament

...and then there were the goalposts and the goal line and there was my ball and I was oblivious to the other elephants and sticks around me and just tapped the ball in the right direction and scored the first goal of the tournament for the Screwy Tuskers. What a feeling of elation! My adrenaline was pumped up so much I thought I would never come down. It was almost better than freefall.

The Battle for Eighth Place

The gauntlet was thrown when a member of the J&B team, the identity of whom is yet to be determined, was overheard to remark: “Playing the Screwy Tuskers tomorrow will be like clubbing baby seals.”

The Wildlife

We moved on tiptoes in the mist through woods and stream and elephant grass, up mudbanks, down tiger paths to mysterious places, under trees and over rodent holes. It was truly a moment of quiet magic during which I realized that I had lost all perspective on time and space and felt nothing but the peace of the jungle and the rhythm of the elephant.

The Rogue Elephant

The school children marched across the airstrip and around the perimeter of the polo field, fists raised, chanting “Kill the Elephant! The Elephant! Kill the Elephant!

The Nepali People

A photo essay by Anne Erickson.

The Teams

The 15th Annual WEPA Tournament teams pose for a group picture at the awards ceremony held at the close of the tournament. From the left: Screwy Tuskers, International Mercenaries, J&B Rare, Loon's Cavalry, British Gurkha Gladiators, Tiger Tops Tuskers, National Parks. Above: Z Ladies International Team.

Tournament Administration

About the Author | About the Photographer

Tiger Mountain's Web Site

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