It’s not long now until the World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) launches its 31st consecutive year of elephant polo tournaments in Nepal. The WEPA World Championship is scheduled to begin on Sunday 25th November until Saturday 1st December, this year’s match being held at Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge, on the periphery of Bardia National Park. This shift from the Jungle Lodge means a new field for old players to negotiate, less travelling time as the pitch is right next to the lodge, and new scenery in the South West of Nepal for guests to marvel at – it really will be anyone’s game!
Many of the old favourites will be returning this year to contest the championship. EFG Switzerland will be headed by seasoned expert James Manclark. Mongolian team, Chinggis Khaan, will head out to the pitch only for the second time. The Tiger Tops Tuskers see the Edwards family having the added advantage of playing on their home turf. Tigresses’ Polo is the all powerful women of the elephant polo pitch. The Afghanifants are an eclectic bunch of Kabul dwelling expats thrown together each year for the tournament. Mel’s Angels is another eclectic mix of Commonwealth Nations, represented by the finest British and Australian elephant polo players. The National Parks team of Nepal offers some serious competition, headed by Ram Prit Yadav. The Pukka Chukkas captain, Jason Wheeler, is quietly optimistic his team will be “fifth time lucky” this year. Finally, the Rusty Kukris round out the field with 6 relative novices striving to bring something new to the field.
It is set to be another ridiculously fun year of elephant polo at Karnali. The ultimate aim is to raise awareness about elephant conservation, anti-poaching efforts and to promote engagement with the local communities. Funds will be raised for elephant welfare and WEPA’s global awareness campaign of the plight of elephants in Thailand will continue.
Photo black and white by Krystle Wright