On World Elephant Day, NGC Relaunches "Explorer" with Gripping Special Investigation into Africa's Illeagal Ivory Trade

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27 August 2015
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Warlords of Ivory
Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic Channels
"Explorer: Warlords of Ivory"
Premieres Sunday, August 30, at 8/7c on NGC
"Elephant Queen"
Premieres Sunday, August 30 at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD

 

Using a Smuggled Tusk With a Hidden GPS Tracker,
National Geographic’s Bryan Christy Follows Ivory’s Bloody Trail
to the Doorsteps of Africa’s Most Notorious Militias

          After a five-year hiatus, National Geographic Channel (NGC), in conjunction with National Geographic magazine (NGM) and National Geographic Studios, relaunches the critically acclaimed documentary series "Explorer" (natgeotv.com/explorer, #NatGeoExplorer) as a monthly series this August. The series opener, "Explorer: Warlords of Ivory," premieres Sunday, Aug. 30, at 8/7c, taking an in-depth look at the devastating effects of the global illegal ivory trade. And to continue National Geographic’s cross-platform commitment to this important cause, Nat Geo WILD premieres the one-hour special "Elephant Queen" the same night at 9/8c, further reinforcing why these majestic creatures are so worthy of our protection.

          The broad strokes of the ivory poaching tragedy are well documented: Some 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered every year for their tusks; thousands of people are attacked, raped and murdered in the path of destruction paid for in part by the trade. Until now, no one has been able to show how the pieces of this deadly puzzle connect — how the ivory is stripped from the corpses of elephants systematically killed by increasingly militarized poachers; how the ivory crosses the African continent to be traded for money to purchase weapons and ammunition; and how the ivory and weapons are stockpiled to sustain a campaign of crime and terrorism.

          In this gripping report, National Geographic Fellow and NGM contributor Bryan Christy — a veteran reporter of wildlife trafficking wars and chief correspondent for the magazine’s new Special Investigations Unit — devises a new tool to investigate how illegal ivory is moved both within Africa and outside of its borders. He commissions an artificial elephant tusk designed to look and feel like confiscated tusks loaned to him by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The artificial tusk is embedded with a custom-made GPS and satellite-based tracking system, and is used to track the people who kill elephants and to learn what roads, ports, cities and countries their ivory plunder follows.

          Christy’s artificial tusk leads him to the doorsteps of Africa’s most notorious militias and terrorist groups, all of them known for looting communities, raping and enslaving villagers and killing park rangers who stand in their way. His reporting, though dangerous, is vitally important to help world authorities identify and follow the sources of illegal ivory and to stop the trade in its tracks. Christy’s investigation is featured on the cover of the September issue of National Geographic magazine, on digital newsstands Aug. 12 and on print newsstands Aug. 25.
 

          To further highlight the importance of Christy’s efforts, Nat Geo WILD will premiere on the same night the one-hour special Elephant Queen, an intimate look inside a majestic herd of African elephants. After the tragic death of her daughter, a herd matriarch must lead her elephants to safety in a breathtaking and inspirational journey.

          This epic adventure takes this family across an arid desert, past mud swamps, through a valley of dust storms and beyond the lion gatekeepers of a forbidden kingdom, into the herds’ ancient feeding grounds in the Okavango Delta. The route the elephants follow is an ancient one, etched in their memories for generations, and leads from watering hole to watering hole in an invisible map across the dry lands in an epic journey sure to inspire passion to protect these creatures.

          Over the course of its original 25-year run, "Explorer" took viewers inside North Korea; on the trail of one of the world’s most dangerous gangs, MS-13; to the gambling dens of Japan’s Yakuza gang; on the hunt for the mysterious Afghan Girl, whose striking eyes mesmerized readers of National Geographic magazine in 1985; and to the heavily guarded warehouses of Brazil’s wild animal trade. The original series was honored with nearly 60 Emmys and hundreds of other awards during its run from 1985 to 2010. Over the course of more than 2,000 films, "Explorer" took viewers to more than 120 countries, opening a window on hidden parts of the world, unlocking mysteries both ancient and modern and investigating stories of science, nature and culture.

 
Bryan Christy
Bryan Christy / Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic Channels
 
          Each monthly episode of the new "Explorer" will take a similar deep dive inside a story from the pages of the current issue of National Geographic magazine. Viewers will venture not only to the most remote corners of the globe, but also to the farthest reaches of the mind and deepest crevices of history — on an urgent mission of discovery.


 
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