After years in the field, attorneys commonly trade the high stress world of prosecution for corner office roles in management and leadership. Rarely does a corporate lawyer leave law to enter the international underworld.
During his years as a Washington, D.C., attorney and CPA, Bryan Christy worked on the sale of nuclear reactors to North Korea, the supercomputer trade between Japan and the U.S., and Norwegian whaling. But Christy’s passion extended beyond corporate law. His uncle and mentor was an FBI undercover agent who trained Christy how to put his talents as a writer to work against criminals. Eventually, he left law and turned all of his investigative skills toward researching and exposing wildlife trafficking and poaching for what it is— warfare.
Today, Bryan Christy is chief correspondent for National Geographic magazine’s new Special Investigations Unit. In 2014 he was named a National Geographic fellow and Explorer of the Year. On the eve of National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary, Christy’s work exposing international wildlife trafficking wars was cited as one of ten ways National Geographic has changed the world.
Christy is the author of The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers, a book the New York Times calls a “wild, wooly, finny, feathery and scaly account of animal smuggling on a grand scale.” Christy went to work as a janitor at a reptile farm for his January 2010 National Geographic story, “The Kingpin,” which exposed the world’s most prolific and notorious wildlife smuggler, Anson Wong, and the complex web of government complicity that supported him. His investigation into the role of religion in the illegal ivory trade—“Blood Ivory,” the magazine’s cover story in October 2012—has had a wide and continuing impact and served as a foundation for the award-winning National Geographic-PBS documentary Battle for the Elephants. Most recently, Christy’s work can be found in National Geographic’s September 2015 cover story, “Tracking Ivory,” in which he helped devise an artificial elephant tusk outfitted with a tracking system that led him to the doorsteps of Africa’s most notorious militias and terrorist groups. His investigative reporting on this story has become a linchpin for world authorities to identify and stop illegal ivory trade and is the subject of “Warlords of Ivory,” the first returning episode of the Emmy Award-winning National Geographic television series, Explorer.
In addition to National Geographic, Christy has published in various law journals, Huffington Post and Foreign Policy, and made numerous television and radio appearances on CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and NPR. He studied at Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University Graduate School, University of Michigan Law School, and Tokyo University Law School—where he was a Fulbright Scholar.