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.
When not playing polo, the Tiger Tops elephants take guests out on wildlife safaris twice a day. The safaris are limited in time so as not to tire the elephants. During the day the elephants are taken out to fields so their trainers can cut grass for their meals. They eat a diet similar to that of wild elephants - primarily grass - but they also receive supplements with vitamins and good nutrients. They are bathed in the river daily. They receive love, attention and communication and are truly cherished.
During elephant polo there are strict rules against harsh treatment by the drivers. The games end at noon so that the elephants won't get too hot. No elephant is allowed to play two consecutive games. They have snacks and water at halftime and then have an hour to rest. Each elephant plays only two games a day. If an elephant is injured or can't play for some reason, the game is played with only three elephants to a side rather than putting extra pressure on the other elephants.
The elephants are extremely intelligent, sensitive and sociable. They enjoy the break in routine and social opportunities that the polo offers them. Domestication of the Asian elephants is a double-edged sword. In many ways the domesticated elephants are better off than the wild elephants because of the loss of habitat. The wild elephants are running out of places to roam and they get into crops and cause all sorts of trouble. Currently there are only around 20 wild elephants in Nepal - the rest are all domesticated. These domesticated animals have a good life and are treated very well. The human/elephant connection is truly a marvel.