young boy on a coconut farm in Kanchanadit, Surat
Thani cringed as he saw a farmer beat a monkey that
failed to properly retreive a coconut. He understood
the usefulness of having monkeys pick the important
crop; the monkeys were more adept at the task, gathering
a much greater number of coconuts per day than the
most skilled man could. However, he was shocked by
the inhumane treatment the animals were given.
the advice of a Buddhist monk, he set out to develop
a training method that was more just. So, in 1957,
at the age of 17, Somporn Saekow began developing
techniques designed to teach his fellow primates through
love and compassion. Over the next fourty five years,
Krue (Teacher) Somporn founded a school for monkeys
and he and his favorite and most famous monkey Khai
Nui captured the hearts of the Thai people.
1957 until his death in 2002, Krue Somporn personally
trained local monkeys in the art of coconut harvesting.
Khai Nui, who appeared in several television commercials,
became even more popular than his owner and was bestowed
the honor of carrying the Surat Thani flag at the
Thai National Games in 1993. Following the death of
Krui Somporn, his family has continued the program
that was his life’s passion.
coconut farmers bring their monkeys (pig tailed macaque
to be exact) to Krue Somporn’s school where
they are enrolled in 3 to 5 months of intensive instruction.
The monkeys are given names and the trainers develop
a close bond with the monkeys through the use of kind
words and positive emotion, which they believe the
primates have an ability to sense and understand.
The trainers even refer to themselves as the monkey’s
fathers, and call their trainees “luuk”,
begins with simple tasks such as spinning a coconut
on its stem and learning to bite through it to release
the fruit. Gradually, the monkeys learn to distinguish
ripe from unripe fruit, how to retrieve fallen coconuts,
and how to load coconuts onto a truck. While there
are no exams and the school does not guarantee how
many coconuts a day a monkey will ultimately be able
to pick, the monkeys are trained patiently until they
develop their skills. A competent monkey can pick
up to 1000 coconuts a day, while a person can gather
little more than 100 at best.
at Monkey Training College run from 7 am to 5 pm seven
days a week Demonstrations for visitors are given
upon request. During these shows, monkeys perform
their coconut picking techniques and show off their
special talents, such as performing summersaults.
There is no fixed show time; once you arrive you can
tell the trainers that you want to see a demonstration
and they will arrange one for you right away. The
demonstration fee depends on the size of your group.
If you are alone the fee is 300B. Visitors can watch
the real monkey training in the classroom/coconut
field throughout the day for free. The school is located
at 24 Moo 4, Tambon Thungkong, Kanchanadit, Surat
Thani and can be contacted at 077/227351.