Friday, December 2, 2011

Famous Surin elephants: Num Sek

The last days I have talked a lot with Mr Paitoon Salangam from Surin elephant study center. Paitoon owns two elephants, Pang Anna and Pang Bo, which are stabled close to the entrance of the Study center, at the haircut and massage saloon, which is managed by Paitoons wife. Paitoon used to tour a lot with elephants before, mostly in Pattaya, and from those years, he knows most Surin mahouts who travelled with their elephants. During those years, he became a good friend of Mr Pu Jay Mau Sabmak, who owns the elephant bull Num Sek, one of Surins most famous elephants. Paitoons elephant Pang Anna, also have a daughter, sired by Num Sek, her name is Pang Som Sri (Lum Yai), and she is staying at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Chiang Rai., managed by John Roberts.

Num Sek, star in The Surin elephant festival, and starring the film Scorpion king.
Num Sek was the star elephant at the Surin festival, which I followed and pictured, read more on:

In early morning at the Surin Stadium a week ago  i noticed two trailers arriving at the military camp behind the Stadium.
For some reason, I stayed and watched the unloading, without knowing how famous the arriving elephants were. Later I understood it was Num Sek, 27 years old, and Thong Kham, who are starring the two war elephants in battle, during the last part of the Surin elephant festival, giving an insight of the war between Burma and Ayutthaya.

Num Sek is owned by Pu Jay, who lives in Chumphon, not far fram Ta Klang village. During conversations with Paiton Salangam, I understood that he and Pu Jay was old friends, during the years they were touring with elephants in Pattaya. and on my polite request, Since I had so many pictures with Num Sek, and interested to know where and how he spend his daily life, Paitoon arranged for me to visit Pu Jay Mau Sabmak in the village Ban Po Moon, Ban Tu Muan, in Chumphon buri.
Ban Po Moon is close to the Moon river, about 20 minutes from Ban Ta Klang in Tha Tum, and in this village theres about 40 elephants. Pu Jay is the proud owner of the elephant bull Num Sek, 27 years old, and one of Thailands famous elephants, but he also has four more elephants.

We arrived in Ban Tu Muan around sundown, and learned that Pu Jay was soon coming home with the bull, so we we studied the elephant trailer and enjoyed the sundown over the rice fields outside Pu Jay´s house.

Instead of waiting for him, I suggested that we should meet him, so I could take pictures of him, while the sun was still up.

It was a lovely sundown over Pu Jay´s house

While cattle herders took their cows home, we went to see Pu Jay taking Num Sek home to stables after his daily stay at the rice fields.
We met Pu Jay on his way home, riding Num Sek.

This was another Num Sek than the fancy superstar during the festival. Now the bull was all gray, covered in mud, and content after a day on the fields.

During the ride home, passing rice fields, and farmers houses, Pu Jay´s elephant hook was never to be seen in contact with Num Seks skin, mostly Pu Jay keep the hook on his shoulder. Num Seks forehead is also unharmed, having not a single scratch from the hook.

A man and his elephant, in a beautiful coexistence, created by traditions and Kui culture, surrounded by village neighbours whos familys probabaly also have or had their aown elephants, undisturbed by animal welfare groups, and vegeterian pseudo-experts on elephants.

Soon we reached Pu Jay´s house, and he removed all ropes hanging from the neck from Num Sek, and chained him up on his place, close to his house.

Num Sek has long beautiful tusks, which needs to be protected

Before leaving Num Sek for the night, Pu Jay always puts on a part of a cycle rubber tire, fastened with hose clamps.
An easy and fast concept, to protect tusks from being weared down, when the elephant is sleeping
And here we left Surins elephant star, while the sun went down.

Pu Jay Mau Sabmak now told the story about Num Sek, while we enjoyed a couple of Leo beer.

Pu Jay was born and raised in Ban Tu Muan, and helped his father taking care of the familys five elephants. His father owned one elephant, and his mother four, and he mention names like Thomboon, Som Bourn and Sawat. Later he would tour with the familys elephants to Pattaya, Hua Hin, and sometimes staying at the Surin Study center in Ban Ta Klang.

Pu Jay bought Num Sek in Lampoon, northern Thailand, when he was about two years old, and unfortunately he does not recall any names of the parents,
but he claim Num Sek was born within Lampoon elephant community. Pu Jay also owns the female Rasamee, and three descendants of Num Sek and Rasamee, namely Monkhon, Kwan, and Pang Num Aoy

Years went by, and Num Sek grew up to be an obedient, handsome bull.
Pu Jay has a village neigbour Pan Jeyram, who owns a 17 year old bull, with the name Thong Kham.

The two bulls has been used to be trained together, and after a lot of work, they can illustrate a battle bewtween two bulls, including Nem Suk lifting Thong Khams head with his tusks, so Thong Khams front feet doesnt touch the ground. For most captive bulls, this would be a difficault position, where aggression would take over their normal obedient behaviour,
but those bulls has been so intensively trained together,so they accept this, and can do it relaxed on command, while a crowd viewing the bulls, would think they are involved  in battle.

This is also the reason why they stage the war elephants at the Surin Stadium, which also made them a suitable choice when Num Sek was chosen as star for the film Scorpion king, and combined with his annual task at the Surin festival, this makes him one of Surins most famous elephants.On this Youtube you can see Num Sek.

Num Sek is also a proven breeder.
Pu Jay think that Num Sek may have sired some 16 babies over the years, and during our conversation he names Lum Jay in BTK (Ban Ta Klang), Num Petch in BTK, Tuk in BTK, Kwan in Pattaya, Tap Tim in Talat village in Paillin, Nam Phoen in Pattaya, Dab Neun in Lopburi, Plai Chai Monkol in BTK. (EDIT 2017: Monkol, and another of Num Seks sons, Plai Boonsong who was born 2013, are both owned by Mr Klaivian Supasorn)

Due to a competent care and training management, far away from european schools for elephant keepers, or american workshops for trainers, Num Sek has grown up to be an excellent working elephant, who, except for the two months in musth, relaxed follow his owners command, while taken care of, according to traditional Kui standards.

I thanked Pu Jay for receiving me, and went back to Ta Klang village with Paitoon, while Pu Jay gave his elephant Num Sek a late night meal, and finally had his own dinner.

Tomorrow is a new day for Surins most famous elephant and his owner. They may calmly stay at a rice field in Ban Ta Muan, or travel kilometers somewhere for an occasional photo session, both in both cases, they will do it together, the man and his elephant.

And Im sure, that regardless how rich and famous Pu Jay Mau Sabmak becomes, he will continue to to work Num Sek himself, assuring he gets the best care in views of Kui traditions.

Num Sek in the elephant database

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