Bryan Christy is author of the novel In the Company of Killers (Putnam, April, 2021), and the non-fiction The Lizard King (Twelve, currently in production A24 Films). He is the founder and former head of Special Investigations at National Geographic and a National Geographic Society Rolex Explorer of the Year. In 2017 he left National Geographic to focus on fiction.
Christy 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), and more. He has testified before Congress on terrorism in Africa, and has lectured for law enforcement and investigative journalism programs around the world.
He began his professional life as a 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.
Christy left law to pursue a career as a writer. His first investigation, for Playboy, centered on the world’s most valuable coin, a 1933 St. Gaudens $20 gold piece stolen from the US Mint and promoted by Sotheby’s auction house as the only one in existence. Christy exposed the one-of-a-kind sale as a sham and broke the story of nearly a dozen more coins.
He turned to wildlife trafficking resulting in his non-fiction book The Lizard King and the National Geographic feature, The Kingpin. His work inspired the passage of new laws in Malaysia and resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of Anson Wong, “the Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking.”
Next came elephants. 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, awarded 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. It is credited with helping to shut down China’s domestic ivory market saving tens of thousands of elephants.
For Tracking Ivory (National Geographic, Oct. 2015), Christy 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 cover story was the subject of the Emmy-nominated documentary, Warlords of Ivory. Warlords received a number of awards, including a Wildscreen Panda Award to Christy for Best Presenter, the wildlife film industry’s top prize.
The Daily Show w/ Trevor Noah