The majestic Thai elephant has long been a central element in Thai culture and has held a respected place in Thai history. A symbol of power and grace, the elephant was revered by the ancient kings.
Elephants have been prominently featured in Thai legend, literature, art and architecture, and during the reign of King Rama II, an image of the auspicious elephant, symbolic of the King, was featured on the flag.
In daily life, as man and elephant depend on each other, the elephant is treated as part of the 'family'. The everyday life of the Thai elephant and its keeper is the central theme of the world-famous Surin elephant round-up held annually.
The "Elephant Contest" is being organised for the first time (2005) to promote awareness and a better understanding of the physiology of Thai elephants and the key characteristics of well-bred elephants.
The Ban Ta Klang Elephant Village in Surin Province is the home of the Kui, who, for centuries, have tended to and trained elephants for use throughout Thailand. These handlers have great respect for their elephants.
The majority of elephant owners and mahouts in Thailand today are descendants of the "Kui" tribe (or "Suay" in Thai). They are thought to have migrated from Cambodia to settle largely in the north-eastern provinces near the Cambodian border. Known for their expertise in capturing, domesticating and training wild elephants, the life-long relationship of the mahout with his elephant is an integral element of Kui culture, tradition and the way of life. The elephant is his companion and a family member.
The Surin Elephant Round-up Show has been organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand since 1960 and has been well-received internationally.