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Understanding the Human Toll of Wildlife Crime

Investigative reporter Bryan Christy discusses his investigation into how ivory finances terrorism in Africa.

WATCH: Bryan Christy on Oct. 22 talks about the human toll of wildlife crime and how he investigated the connections among poaching, the illegal ivory trade, and terrorism in Africa.

Wildlife crime isn’t just about animals. Part of our mission here at Wildlife Watch is to highlight the human toll of poaching and trafficking too.

Each year, poachers kill around 30,000 elephants just for their tusks: Ivory brings in up to $1,500 per kilogram. With the trade that lucrative, armed militias and terrorist groups have joined in force.

With a fake tusk made by one of best taxidermists in the world and a custom-made GPS tracker as his Trojan horse, Bryan Christy investigated these connections in National Geographic’s Tracking Ivory. Christy, the chief correspondent for National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, made a disturbing find: A terrorist group led by the infamous Joseph Kony is killing elephants to directly fund a war of terror on the people of Africa.

Watch Christy discuss the Lord’s Resistance Army, the rangers who put their lives on the line to protect elephants—and terrorized villagers—and his own undercover operation that helped link it all together. Christy spoke on October 22 to an audience at a National Geographic Live! event.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to