As the best opportunity to see elephants and other animals in the wild, Kui Buri has long been on the ‘must go’ list of visitors to our region.
If anyone asks you where can they see these majestic creatures roaming free, this is the place, with entry only allowed entry between 2 and 5pm.
However ‘behind the scenes’ there are some largely unknown features of the area that we would like to introduce.
To begin with the Kui Buri district in Prachuab Khiri Khan has adopted the late Monarch’s new agricultural theory on land and water management and is keen to show it off
His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej had a long and happy relationship with Kui Buri district in Prachuab Khiri Khan province and today his agricultural theory on land and water management is being applied here for the first time.
The water management system is called khok nong na – khok meaning a moulded mound, nong a catchment, and na a field. Here, when it rains, the water runs down from the Tenasserim hills into the first catchment.
When that catchment overflows, the water goes to the second catchment and runs through a khlong sai kai (spiral filling canal) towards the third catchment and the loom khanom khrok (a small catchment dug along the canal) before ending in the field.
Along this canal line, the flow is continuously decelerated by a fai or weir.b Crops are planted in terraced fields between those catchments to ensure irrigation. Kui Buri has developed its own khok nong na and it’s known as the Kui Buri Model.
Check dams built above Yang Chum Reservoir to store water for use as well as slow down the water flow to prevent flooding, maintain soil moisture and to provide water for the elephants that roam this area.
The construction of check dams can be done at intervals and take the shape of a pond that is then connected with a pipeline system to disperse water and create moisture for the forest, which continues to serve as a food source for the elephants.
Tilapia fish may also be found in the reservoirs. The freshwater fish, whose history dates back to ancient Egypt, was introduced to Thailand by the late King in the 1960s.
In 1965, the Thai monarch was looking for fish species with high nutritional value and which could breed fast to solve the problem of malnutrition among Thais in rural areas, and the tilapia fish from Japan was the species he chose.
Later, the king bestowed the fish with the name “Pla Nil” from its English name “Nilotica” or Nile River fish.
Prior to the park’s creation, villagers and elephants were at odds, with many conflicts turning tragic, even deadly. In the late 1970s, settlers migrated from all corners of Thailand to the area, establishing the village of Ruam Thai and cultivating pineapple where elephants had once roamed unimpeded.
With fields of the fruit encroaching on what had been their territory, the animals began raiding farmlands, destroying crops, and leaving villagers furious.
The killing of two elephants in 1997 – one poisoned, the other shot dead and burned – marked the peak of the conflict, attracting countrywide attention, including from King Bhumibol Adulyadej – the unquestionable patron of Thailand’s conservation movement.
Upon the park’s establishment in 1999, the king issued a special royal address calling for people to protect the elephants and their habitat:
“Elephants should be in the forest. But we must ensure that there is enough food for them. In practical terms, we should create many small food plots spread around the forest in order to keep the elephants from invading the plantations and to help protect the elephants,” he said.
And thus came the conservation and restoration of Kui Buri National Forest Project to conserve wild elephants and wildlife.
THE SANDALWOOD TREES OF KUI BURI
Kui Buri National Park has more than 200,000 sandalwood trees and is the first and only place that can grow sandalwood for the royal family’s cremation ceremonies.
Because of the dry evergreen forest, the timbers of the sandalwoods don’t contract like in other places. For King Rama IX’s cremation ceremony, a royal brahmin spent more than a month selecting the trees that met the criteria – they must be dead and aged over 100 years.
Nine of the trees were cut for use in HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s royal cremation ceremony, three for that of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, and a further three for the funeral rites of Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera, the 19th supreme patriarch of Thailand.
The stumps remain, undercover and protected, with a guide commenting that some visitors “sit and cry while hugging the stumps.”