“Warlords of Ivory” tracked a fake elephant tusk from poachers to militants.
Investigative reporter Bryan Christy has documented an ivory trafficking network that funds some of Africa’s most ruthless criminals and terrorists.
The new National Geographic documentary “Warlords of Ivory” follows Christy as he recounts his investigation and details his alarming findings, which were also reported in National Geographic’s print edition this month.
The funding of terrorist activities through the illegal ivory trade has long been suspected by government authorities and investigators, but Christy’s investigation is among the first to provide evidence linking the two crimes together.
Christy’s investigation began by embedding a fake elephant tusk with a GPS chip, introducing it to poaching networks, and tracking the tusk as it traveled to the headquarters of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militia led by warlord Joseph Kony.
The tusk then traveled on to Sudan, where Christy lost track of it. It could have been stored in a place without a signal, its GPS battery might have died, or the chip could have been discovered and disposed of.
Christy’s GPS tusk reveals how the ivory trade leaves not just animals, but also humans in peril. The reporter interviews a deserter from the LRA, who details how armed forces were sent out to kill both people and elephants.
Christy also visits kill sites of elephants at Garamba National Park in the Congo, where elephants that were shot en-masse from helicopters had their tusks removed with chainsaws.
This crime scene is another example of the park’s struggle to deter the heavily-armed poachers. In just a year, the park lost about 10 percent of its elephant population and several rangers and Congolese soldiers were killed.
With evidence that ivory trafficking puts people as well as animals in the crosshairs of dangerous criminals, Christy is hopeful that the documentary will give authorities and activists further reason to fight against poaching.
The documentary debuted on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday. It will next air on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 9:00 a.m. eastern and can be watched online with a valid cable subscription.