Exposing the Illegal International Ivory Trade on World Elephant Day

After a five-year hiatus, National Geographic Channel, in conjunction with National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Studios, relaunches the critically acclaimed documentary series Explorer as a monthly series this August. The series opener, Explorer: Warlords of Ivory, premieres Sunday, Aug. 30, at 8/7c, taking an in-depth look at the devastating effects of the global illegal ivory trade. And to continue National Geographic’s cross-platform commitment to this important cause, Nat Geo WILD premieres the one-hour special Elephant Queen the same night at 9/8c, further reinforcing why these majestic creatures are so worthy of our protection.

The broad strokes of the ivory poaching tragedy are well documented: Some 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered every year for their tusks; thousands of people are attacked, raped and murdered in the path of destruction paid for in part by the trade. Until now, no one has been able to show how the pieces of this deadly puzzle connect — how the ivory is stripped from the corpses of elephants systematically killed by increasingly militarized poachers; how the ivory crosses the African continent to be traded for money to purchase weapons and ammunition; and how the ivory and weapons are stockpiled to sustain a campaign of crime and terrorism.

Watch: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Ivory Trade

In this gripping report, National Geographic Fellow and NGM contributor Bryan Christy (@BryanChristy) — a veteran reporter of wildlife trafficking wars and chief correspondent for the magazine’s new Special Investigations Unit — devises a new tool to investigate how illegal ivory is moved both within Africa and outside of its borders. He commissions an artificial elephant tusk designed to look and feel like confiscated tusks loaned to him by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Watch: High-Tech Tusk Built to Trick Ivory Poachers). The artificial tusk is embedded with a custom-made GPS and satellite-based tracking system, and is used to track the people who kill elephants and to learn what roads, ports, cities and countries their ivory plunder follows.

WEST PATERSON, N.J.- Investigative journalist Bryan Christy looks on as Wildlife Preservations founder George Dante explains the process of building an artificial ivory tusk that contains hidden GPS trackers. (Photo Credit: NG Studios/Jessica Harrop)
WEST PATERSON, N.J.- Investigative journalist Bryan Christy looks on as Wildlife Preservations founder George Dante explains the process of building an artificial ivory tusk that contains hidden GPS trackers. (Photo Credit: NG Studios/Jessica Harrop)

Christy’s artificial tusk leads him to the doorsteps of Africa’s most notorious militias and terrorist groups, all of them known for looting communities, raping and enslaving villagers and killing park rangers who stand in their way. His reporting, though dangerous, is vitally important to help world authorities identify and follow the sources of illegal ivory and to stop the trade in its tracks. Christy’s investigation is featured on the cover of the September issue of National Geographic magazine, on digital newsstands now and on print newsstands Aug. 25.

To further highlight the importance of Christy’s efforts, Nat Geo WILD will premiere on the same night the one-hour special Elephant Queen, an intimate look inside a majestic herd of African elephants. After the tragic death of her daughter, a herd matriarch must lead her elephants to safety in a breathtaking and inspirational journey.

This epic adventure takes this family across an arid desert, past mud swamps, through a valley of dust storms and beyond the lion gatekeepers of a forbidden kingdom, into the herds’ ancient feeding grounds in the Okavango Delta. The route the elephants follow is an ancient one, etched in their memories for generations, and leads from watering hole to watering hole in an invisible map across the dry lands in an epic journey sure to inspire passion to protect these creatures.

ITHUMBA, TSAVO EAST NATIONAL PARK, KENYA- Elephants are often orphaned when their mothers are killed for their ivory. This can be devastating for young elephants, who depend on their mothers' milk in their early years, and rely on their knowledge base to obtain food and water. (Photo Credit: NG Studios/John Heminway)
ITHUMBA, TSAVO EAST NATIONAL PARK, KENYA- Elephants are often orphaned when their mothers are killed for their ivory. This can be devastating for young elephants, who depend on their mothers’ milk in their early years, and rely on their knowledge base to obtain food and water. (Photo Credit: NG Studios/John Heminway)

Each monthly episode of the new Explorer will take a deep dive inside a story from the pages of the current issue of National Geographic magazine. Viewers will venture not only to the most remote corners of the globe, but also to the farthest reaches of the mind and deepest crevices of history — on an urgent mission of discovery.

Don’t miss Explorer: Warlords of Ivory Sunday, Aug. 30 at 8/7c.

Comments

  1. Joan
    October 5, 2015, 12:06 pm

    Hello – are there any plans to rebroadcast Explorer: Warloads of Ivory ? Thank you….Joan