Thong Ngan was originally from Suoi Kiet forests in Tanh Linh, Binh Thuan province, which is about 350 km away from Yok Don National Park, Dak Lak Province.
In 2001, his 9-member family was involved in a human elephant conflict. In that conflict, two female elephants were dead, one elephant ran to a nearby mountain and the rest were taken to Yok Don National Park to return to the wild.
However, two boys out of the herd of six elephants kept wandering around people’s area. They could not live independently in the forests any more. As a result, in 2005, the government approved that they could be trained to become captive elephants. One bull was named Thong Ngan, which means“silver medal”. The other was named Thong Kham, which means “gold medal”.
Thong Ngan first helped with carrying tents, food and drink for multiple-day camping trips. Later, he got used to doing the chores for tourism activities. With regards to his personality, Thong Ngan is calm and docile. However, he is unclear in the way he gives his message to people. There are days he does not want people to approach him but he did not make it clear that “don’t you dare come closer” with his body language. Thong Ngan is also considered to be a greedy eater. His mahout told that whenever he had to share a pile of sugar canes with other elephants, he would try to tuck as much food as possible between his tusk and his trunk.
Thong Ngan has a good brother called Thong Kham. When Thong Kham was still living in Yok Don National Park, Thong Kham and Thong Ngan often hung out, played with each other and tested their strength with their trunks. They also communicated by nudging one another and poking each other gently with their tusks.