By William E Heinecke
Through our fundraising initiatives and support of many charitable organisations we have striven for many years to fund vital conservation projects for Thailand’s elephant population.
Since its creation in 2001, the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has consistently acted as one of the biggest fundraisers for elephants in Thailand with over Bt55 million raised and donated to projects that have bettered the lives of both wild and domesticated elephants in Thailand and beyond. Funds from the event have been donated to various projects including the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand which supports veterinary and educational
projects to improve the year-round lives of elephants and mahouts in Surin province where former street elephants face ongoing hardship.
Continuing this reciprocal relationship, Minor Hotels is also fully supportive of the recent decision by the Thailand Elephant Polo Association, the main governing body behind the tournament, not to seek permission for a 2019 Elephant Polo tournament and to cease its operations in Thailand. We look forward to developing future fundraising initiatives dedicated to improving the lives of captive and wild elephants in Thailand.
Across the international footprint of Minor Hotels, we have long been passionate about nature conservation more generally, and specifically elephant conservation, as demonstrated through our charitable bodies the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) in Asia and Land & Life Foundation in East Africa. I have personally joined WildAid in calling for a complete ban on the domestic ivory trade in our native Thailand through their #lvoryFreeTH campaign, acted as an inaugural signatory to the “Business Leaders’ Pledge” against the Thai ivory trade and also petitioned to the Australian government to end domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn. In addition, I am a member of the Founders Circle for the Coalition of Business Leaders to call for the same and Minor Hotels is also a signatory of the WWF#TravelIvoryFree campaign to combat the illegal ivory trade in Thailand.
For the past four years the GTAEF has fully funded the protection of an 18,000-hectare wildlife corridor in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains, home to some 200 wild elephants. Two years ago we began funding a project aimed at reducing human-elephant conflict and increasing community acceptance of elephants in the Khao Yai-Dong Phayayen forest complex in Thailand. In the same complex, funds have been designated to build watchtowers and electric fences both to protect villagers and to assist the rangers that live inside Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary to protect against encroachers and poachers. Furthermore, in 2015 we began
funding community rangers in Tanzania’s Randilen Wildlife Management Area, an essential elephant expansion area for Tarangire National Park upon which the Wildlife Conservation Society estimates 1,500 elephants depend.
I once again extend a personal invite to meet with Jason Baker of PETA Asia to discuss his planned goals to fundraise specifically for Asia’s Elephant population (“On World Animal day, it’s time to end elephant polo”, Opinion & Analysis, October 4). In turn we would be delighted to share our future goals and aspirations for elephants both captive and wild, within the multifaceted network of culture, tradition and changing
perceptions which frames modern Southeast Asia.
William E Heinecke is founder and chairman of Minor International PCL.