Elephants walk through jungle
Kong on elephant playing buffalo horn
Williams: Deep in the jungles of Vietnam is a man who doesn’t let too much get between him and nature.At 88 years old, Ama Kong can still steer an elephant with his naked thighs - but that’s not what he’s famous for.
Kong: I was born on 15 September 1915. I started hunting elephants when I was 13.
Williams: Ama Kong hunts elephants for farm use -- over fifty years he’s caught and tamed almost 300 wild elephants, making him Vietnam’s greatest ever elephant hunter – a record due in part to the rhythms of his buffalo horn.Kong: The music is for the tame elephants --
Kong so whatever you do, whatever happens on the hunt they won’t run away. The music makes them gentle.
Williams: Keeping them calm is vital – in one hunt a spear almost took Ama Kong’s life.
Kong shows scar Kong: For almost a week I thought I was going to die.
Rice Padi Music
Kong feeds foliage to elephants
Williams: Ama Kong’s jungle exploits have taught him a healthy respect for his quarry.
Despite their cute looks even these two baby bulls just brought in from the wild could injure or even a kill man.
As part of their taming, Ama Kong spends months just getting them used to the sound of the human voice, and approaches with tender caution.
Kong: First, you love the elephants…second, if you say ah, ah, ah, they listen to you and if you say oi oi they understand. If you love them they know it I love them as much as I love my own wife and children.
H’Kham with children Music
Williams: And children are something Ama Kong knows all about. Walking home for their evening meal - these are just some of Ama Kong’s 125 descendents.The elephant king’s virility has produced 21 children from four wives. His youngest child is just six, from his current wife 37-year-old H’Kham
H’Kham: We met and flirted and our friends set-up the marriage. We loved each other, so we got married. It’s like that.
Kong with children
Williams: Ama Kong is a Montengarde, a hilltribe minority. To them big families have always been a part of survival -- and having outlived his previous wives, Ama Kong needed another.
Kong: People kept saying, without relatives who’s going to cook for you? I said, let me think about it --.and I said, if it’s true she loves me, then let’s get married! (laughs)
Williams and Kong walk through jungle to find herbs
Williams: For Ama Kong the secrets of staying active are to be found just like the elephants – in the jungle.
For centuries jungle herbs have been the hill tribes’ pharmacy -- what looks like weeds are in fact drugs capable of curing all manner of illness.Williams: For the eyes? And the head? And the stomach? This one.
Kong picks leaves
Williams: After decades on these trails Ama Kong knows them all -- and there is one whose aphrodisiac attributes have made the Elephant King famous across Vietnam.
Kong: Somebody came from Saigon to buy the medicine. They asked for the medicine to help them have children. Well, I answered, I don’t know.
Kong I had pains, and take the medicine to give me good health -- to improve my strength to have children -- but I just said that for a bit of fun. Anyway, on January 3rd I gave them the medicine and by February 7th the woman was pregnant. They had a daughter and came with the child in a car and brought many things -- even beers -- to thank me.
Kong carries sack
Williams: Since then it’s been boom times for Ama Kong. To keep up with demand he needs bulk supplies of the secret ingredients.
Kong sells herbs to men Ama Kong’s reputation has spread far and wide – and there’s money in it.
Man: What does this cure? Kong: Those two medicines treat stomach ache and enhance physical strength.Man: Strong?
Kong: Strong! (laughs) These men have come all the way from Hanoi - hundreds of kilometres away to get hold of Vietnam’s natural Viagra.
Man: Give me a bag. Strong, but now make it stronger. Make it really strong!!
Williams: While he believes in the power of the herbs – Ama Kong is bemused by the popularity of his love drug --fed more perhaps by men’s fantasies than any sales spin.
Kong sells herbs
Kong: People take the medicine for good health. When they have children they may say “your medicine is so good we take it and we have children” -- But actually God gives you the children. I’m not sure it’s really because of my medicine
Williams: Regardless of the facts, Ama Kong’s herbs now haul in hundreds of dollars a year And it’s just as well…
Elephants walk into river With so few elephants left in the wild, Vietnam’s Government has banned their capture for agricultural and domestic use. Ama Kong is out of a job.
Elephants in river
Kong: I would like to catch just one to raise -- to have one elephant to hang around and to help with the farm work.
Williams: He’s not bitter about the ban – he believes the remaining herds should be left to roam free. While his skill with wild animals will likely die with him, he is making sure his children don’t lose the knowledge of today’s money-spinner – the jungle’s secret herbs.
Kong in water with elephants
Kong: We just need to love our children and grandchildren. I cannot explain it in words but I show my children and grandchildren everything about the herbs. I show them everything.
Kong sits and smokes
Williams: At Ama Kong’s age most people are ready to retire – but in his few quiet moments away from the kids, Ama Kong puts his undiminished vigour down to a simple formula – working hard, eating rice…
… and of course – downing the odd glass of Ama Kong’s Herbal Viagra.
Reporter: Evan Williams
Camera: Geoffrey Lye
Sound: Kate Graham
Editor: Stuart Miller
Producer: Mary Ann Jolley