by James Ruggia
Last updated: 10:37 AM ET, Tue March 18, 2014
PHOTO: Over the years Anantara has been the elephant's best friend in Thailand. (Courtesy of Anantara Hotels and Resorts)
In 2014, Anantara Hotels and Resorts is supporting several sustainability projects designed to improve local communities as well as nature and wildlife. In Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, Anantara joined with the U.S./Cambodian Conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance to help protect 18,000 hectares of forest as a corridor for elephants and other animals. Contributions from Anantara's parent company Minor International have funded the building, manning and equipment for ranger stations to patrol the land, preventing hunting and illegal logging. Beyond the benefits for wildlife, it is calculated that the forest holds more than 5,000,000 tons of carbon, which would be released into the atmosphere if the partnership with the Wildlife Alliance did not exist.
In Thailand, Anantara's support of the annual King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has raised more than $750,000 to support the lives of domestic and wild elephant populations throughout the kingdom. Funding from last year's event is currently being used to introduce educational conservation programs by Think Elephant International (TEI) to over 600 students from 20 schools in Thailand who learn about elephant behavior, conservation, human-elephant conflict and scientific research, as well as training and supporting BSc Conservation Biology graduates to become TEI classroom teachers.
Anantara is also assisting in a number of royal projects in Kui Buri National Park including weekend camps for children living on the outskirts of the park, whose families' crops are raided by wild elephants. Money from the tournament has also helped set up the world's first Thai Elephant Therapy Project (TETP) in conjunction with Chiang Mai University and the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre. The program is designed to provide autistic children with an opportunity to develop their social interaction and emotional skills by using elephants as a working partner with occupational therapists.
The elephants used in the project have been rescued from the streets of Thailand and have gone through specific training to ensure that they are healthy and well prepared for the clinical research sessions. The elephants are accompanied by their expert mahout handlers, alongside human therapists and researchers. This year's King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is scheduled for Aug. 28 to 31.
Individual Anantara's properties across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, the Maldives and the Middle East all participate in local initiatives such as marine turtle protection in Phuket, coral rejuvenation in the Maldives or supporting local farmers in Indonesia. Anantara's "365 Days of Good Deeds" program also invites guests to combine their stay with opportunities to participate in a range of good deeds that help local communities and the environment. In 2014, Anantara will launch the new Dollars For Deeds campaign, initially in Thailand, with plans to extend the scheme worldwide. Dollars for Deeds invites guests to donate $1 a night during their stay to raise money for a range of causes indigenous to each region where the resorts are located.
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