Bryan Christy is an award-winning journalist and author. He is the founder and former head of Special Investigations at National Geographic Magazine and a National Geographic Society Rolex Explorer of the Year.
On The Daily Show w/ Trevor Noah
Christy is author of the forthcoming novel, In the Company of Killers (Putnam, April, 2021), and the non-fiction The Lizard King (Twelve, in production A24 Films). He has been the subject of two award-winning National Geographic documentaries and has worked as a correspondent on the Emmy-award winning Explorer television series. His writing has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing.
He began his professional life as an embalmer and mortician’s apprentice working in his family’s New Jersey funeral home. He passed the CPA and bar exams and practiced international law in Washington, DC where he worked on such topics as US-Japan supercomputer trade, Norwegian whaling, and the sale of light water nuclear reactors to North Korea.
In 1995 he left law to pursue a career as an international crime writer. He started with non-fiction. His first investigation centered on the theft and smuggling of the world’s most valuable coin, a 1933 St. Gaudens $20 gold piece stolen from the US Mint in Philadelphia, and promoted by Sotheby’s auction house as the only one of its kind in the world. Christy located a second coin his first day looking for one, and broke the story of nearly a dozen more. He turned from coins to wildlife and spent three years investigating reptile trafficking, resulting in The Lizard King and the National Geographic feature, The Kingpin, which together led to the passage of new laws and the arrest and imprisonment of one of the world’s most-wanted wildlife traffickers.
Next came elephants. His cover story Blood Ivory (National Geographic, Oct. 2012) took readers inside Asia’s ivory carving industry and was made into the National Geographic-PBS documentary feature film Battle for the Elephants, which won Best Conservation Film at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The story led to police raids on ivory shops in Vatican City and the Philippines, and is credited with helping to shut down China’s domestic ivory market saving tens of thousands of elephants.
For his cover story Tracking Ivory (National Geographic, Oct. 2015), he designed fake elephant tusks armed with satellite-based GPS systems to hunt terrorists operating in central Africa. During his reporting, Christy was arrested in Tanzania and held as a suspected ivory trafficker. This groundbreaking investigation was the subject of the Emmy-nominated documentary, Warlords of Ivory, which received a number of awards, including a Wildscreen Panda Award to Christy for Best Presenter, the wildlife film and TV industry’s top prize.
He has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, NPR’s Fresh Air w Terry Gross (and here), CNN’s Amanpour, BBC, Nightline, PBS NewsHour, RTL Late Night (Netherlands); has testified before Congress on terrorism in Africa; and has lectured for law enforcement and investigative journalism programs around the world. His education includes Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University’s FALCON Japanese Program, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, University of Michigan Law School, and Tokyo University Law School (where he was a Fulbright Scholar).