bio

For its 125th anniversary, National Geographic declared Bryan Christy’s investigative work ‘one of ten ways National Geographic has changed the world.’ An award winning journalist, he is the former head of Special Investigations at the magazine and the 2014 National Geographic Society Rolex Explorer of the Year.

On The Daily Show w/ Trevor Noah

Christy’s international criminal investigations have been the subject of two award-winning National Geographic documentaries and his crime writing has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. He is author of the non-fiction book The Lizard King: the true crimes and passions of the world’s greatest reptile smugglers (TWELVE). 

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He began his professional career working as an embalmer and mortician’s apprentice in his family’s 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. After quitting law, he worked as a NASCAR team consultant (Joe Gibbs Racing) in Charlotte, North Carolina and as a whitewater kayak instructor in the U.S., Costa Rica and Canada before turning to writing full time.

As a National Geographic Explorer series correspondent, Christy exposed terrorism in Africa, international opioid trafficking, profiteering in America’s private prison system, and the post-Fukushima nuclear disaster and the industry of disappearing individuals in Japan

He has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor NoahNPR’s Fresh Air w Terry Gross (and here), CNN’s Amanpour, BBC, Nightline, PBS NewsHour, RTL Late Night (Netherlands), among others.

As a journalist, he has used innovative techniques to develop his stories. 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 the course of this project, Christy was arrested in Tanzania and held as a suspected ivory trafficker. This groundbreaking investigation was the magazine’s cover story and the subject of the Emmy-nominated documentary, Warlords of Ivory, which was shown at the United Nations.  

For Warlords, Christy won the Wildscreen Panda Award for Best Presenter, the wildlife film and TV industry’s top prize, as well as:

  • The United Nations/C.I.T.E.S International Elephant Film Festival Issues and Solutions Award 
  • Tusk Conservation Achievement Award for Media and Film
  • New York Wild Film Festival Award for Best Conservation Film
  • S.M.A.S.H.: Science Media Award for Best Conservation Film.

Tracking Ivory won the Kevin Carmody Outstanding Award for Investigative Journalism, second prize, from the Society of Environmental Journalists. 

Christy’s 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. His reporting led to police raids on ivory shops in Vatican City, Italy, and the Philippines.

He has testified before Congress on terrorism in Africa and has lectured for law enforcement and investigative journalism programs around the world, including for INTERPOL, the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Australasia’s AELERT, US Dept. of State and Interior, CITES, and groups of national judges and prosecutors. The US Justice Department named him a Centennial Speaker.

His education includes Penn State, Cornell’s FALCON Program, University of Michigan Law School, Tokyo University Law School and time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He was a Fulbright Program Graduate Research Fellow, a National Geographic Society Fellow, 2014-17, and is an Explorers Club Fellow.