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SVFF: Investigative Journalist Bryan Christy Shares Harrowing Tales in Warlords of Ivory

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Bryan Christy (left) talks with Boise Weekly's George Prentice during the 2016 Sun Valley Film Festival. - SVFF
  • SVFF
  • Bryan Christy (left) talks with Boise Weekly's George Prentice during the 2016 Sun Valley Film Festival.


Bryan Christy, one of the planet's most fearless investigative reporters, shared harrowing, heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious stories with a standing-room-only audience at the 2016 Sun Valley Film Festival's first "salon" encounter Thursday, mixing food, drinks and essential storytelling.

Christy is chief correspondent and founder of National Geographic's Special Investigations Unit, and his most recent probe linking ivory trading to terrorism and blood money has been heralded across the world.

Christy shared some of those exploits a few hours before his award-winning film, Warlords of Ivory, premiered at the Sun Valley Opera House.

In one particularly gripping tale, Christy told the SVFF Salon audience how he and his team were arrested in an Tanzanian airport while attempting to ship a fake tusk into the country.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
  • National Geographic

"We had one of the world's best taxidermists craft for us fake ivory tusks, which were hollowed out. And inside those tusks, we placed GPS devices in order to track the illegal trafficking deep inside Central Africa, where some of the planet's most notorious warlords are using that trade to fuel terrorism," Christy said.

After he was released from a Tanzanian prison, Christy discovered those tusks had found their way to the warlords.

His amazing hunt is but one part of Warlords of Ivory. Among the stunning realizations in the film is that 30,000-40,000 of the world's remaining 440,000 African elephants are slaughtered annually—some gunned down at the knees with AK-47s, others through poisoned water—in order to rob the animals of their tusks. Christy added that much of the ivory ends up in the homes of China's ever-expanding middle class, which sees ivory as a symbol of affluence.

Christy said the crisis is "nothing short of war," yet is rarely on the world's front pages. His investigative team, he said, intends to influence change by engaging issues like the ivory trade head-on.