The 29th World Elephant Polo Championship is already underway in the small Nepalese village of Maghauli, and Icelandic players are among those taking part.
Numerous south Asian news sources are reporting that eight teams from Iceland, UK, Scotland, UAE, Switzerland, Afghanistan and Nepal are participating in the competition. The original competition, first organized by the Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, was founded in 1982. Iceland’s team – the Tiger Tops Tuskers – are among those taking part this year.
According to the official site of the World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA), “Approximately 16 elephants participate in the World Elephant Polo Championships every year. Half of the elephants belong to the Nepal National Parks and half belong to Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge. These elephants are trained and maintained by skilled trainers, who often will stay with an elephant for many years. They are well fed and sheltered. They get as much exercise as a wild elephant would – in contrast to zoo elephants that have nowhere to go.”
Another site gives a brief summary of the rules: “Apart from some few differences, the rules of elephant polo is basically similar to that of horse polo. In elephant polo players are secured in rope harnesses, with a rope across their thighs and rope stirrups and the elephants are driven by their trainers, called ‘mahouts’. The player lets the mahout know where & how fast to go and when to stop. The mahout in turn communicates with the elephant with verbal commands and by applying pressure to the back of the elephant’s ears with their feet.”
The tournament ends on 4 December. We encourage everyone to follow this competition and root for Iceland, if for no other reason than we need a sport that we can dominate globally.