With just seven days remaining before Bryan Christy‘s Blood Ivory article hits the newsstands, we’re down to the wire. A complete story is within our grasp, but it’s uncomfortably obvious that we don’t yet have enough. Our legal team insists that we remove ourselves from the field before “Blood Ivory” is released. Sensing the pressure, the reality is that we either deliver now or come up short.
Anticipating the scramble, we had split into two teams. I’m on the ground in Dar es Salaam posing as an ivory buyer with Aidan Hartley. Our goal is simple: capture the bad guys on film, red handed. Our second team is in China, their objective is much more complex: explore the driving forces behind the growing demand for ivory.
Since the opening up of the Chinese market and the growth of its economy, ivory—once a precious material reserved for the ruling elite—has become increasingly available to the growing Chinese middle class. To help tell this story our team is with one of the top experts in the world, and the author of the upcoming article that coincidentally could get them kicked out of the country, if exposed. Bryan Christy takes the film team to an artisan carver who has been working for two years on one piece, valued at more than a million dollars.
Hearing my colleagues describe the ornate detail that went into this one carving, I feel the complexity of this problem hit me like a ton of bricks. Bryan tells me, ”When I see craftsmanship like Mr. Leung’s and learn how many years he spent creating his masterpiece, I am overwhelmed with the mathematical equivalency between the beauty of ivory carving in China and the beauty of an elephant in the African wild. But the beauty on one side of the scale is bought with the blood of the other. That’s how I know the scale is not equal—elephants and people who protect them are dying. And that’s how I know one side must be stopped.”
WATCH THE FULL ONLINE SERIES:
- Battle for the Elephants: Web Series Intro
- Episode 1: The Plight of the Elephant
- Episode 2: Criminal Traders Exposed
- Episode 3: The China Ivory Market
- Episode 4: Massive Ivory Stockpile
See “Blood Ivory” author Bryan Christy in National Geographic’s “Battle for the Elephants” on February 27 at 9 p.m. Check local listings.