Bryan Christy - Investigating Rhino Horn Trade with National Geographic

October 12, 2016 - Bryan Christy 10/12/2016 Views: 10,181

National Geographic's Bryan Christy talks about his investigation into illegal rhino horn trade in South Africa and weighs in on how to stop the practice. (5:48)

Watch Full Episode

Please welcome Bryan Christy.

(cheering and applause)

Thank you so muchfor being here.

It's great to be here.

I'm a, I'm a huge fanof your work

and what you've been doing.

Uh, for those who don't know,you go around the world,

and you tacklesome really tough stories,

talking about what's happeningin the world of, uh,

-I guess, you know, nature.-Yeah.

But what's fascinatingis how you draw the stories

from what seemslike a small topic,

-and it branches outinto everything. -Right.

Yeah. No, I startedprofessionally as a lawyer,

and I-I got a CPA license,and I found out, you know what?

There's not a lot of lifeto that.

But it did give me a skill setto be able to go after, uh,

big guys who areexploiting small guys.

And the smallest guy,th-th-the littlest guy

on the planet is wildlife.

You have an amazing story

that I-I really recommend peoplego out and-and read about,

uh, the illegal trade of ivoryin the world. Tracking it...

tracking it back to terrorism,surprisingly,

which is why I say these storiesalways lead their way

into something bigger.Uh, this-this story

that's coming outin National Geographic

really hit home with me,because it was about,

uh, it's about rhino poaching.

And rhino poaching,predominantly in South Africa,

-where we have the biggestproblem. I mean... -Yeah.

The, you know,there were once 500,000 rhinos,

beginning of the 20th century.

And now we're down to,what, 29,000?

Yeah, that's right.

And... So, when...

when you looked at the story,when you s...

Where do you even start?

How do you get involvedin these stories?

The rhino, uh, story...

um, started, for me, with-withknowing that South Africa

was about to possibly s... uh,

submit to the world the idea

that-that we should openthe world to rhino horn trade.

Now, a lot of people don't know.

Let's get into the story of it,

because this iswhat fascinated me reading.

I knew about poaching.From South Africa.

-Yeah. -I knew about poachers,you know, like,

the little gorilla factionsof poachers running out,

killing one, two,three rhinos a day.

You know, these guys that arejust trying to make money

coming from Mozambiqueand Angola.

But you tacklea very different story.

Men who are running companies

where some of them arebringing out American hunters

to kill game that they'renot supposed to be killing.

-Yeah.-How does that work?

Well, South Africa...

I've been tracking wildlifeexploitation for over a decade.

I've gone all over the world.

And I've never seen anythinglike South Africa.

-South Africa, the part I didn'tknow is ranching game. -Yeah.

So you have rhino ranches.

That is oneof the saddest photos to me.

You know, to South Africans,to the owner of this ranch,

that... he's incredibly proud."I'm saving rhino."

To me, these are...

-This is the commodificationof a species. -Mm-hmm.

These are rhinothat are now assets.

Their horns are cut off,the horns grow back.

So they're cutting these hornsoff, stockpiling them,

hoping to sell them for millionsand millions of dollars

on the Asian market.

And to do it, they're havingthese rhino live like cattle.

-Yeah. -And these arebiologically dead.

They're not partof ecosystems anymore.

And it's not just rhino.

They're doing it to sable,they're doing it...

Pick your speciesthat an American wants to hunt,

and they're turning itinto a farm.

When you have someof the more gruesome stories--

and we'll show someof the people the pictures.

And I don't show you thisto shock you.

Just, I show this to you

to make you understandthe gravity of the situation,

and also how brutalthese people are.

There is a manwho you talk about in the story

who has rhino, kills themand just chops the horns off.

He doesn't try to, you know,keep them alive.

He doesn't try to workwith people to, you know,

I guess harvest the hornsin a humane way.

When you're talking to him,how does he describe this?

To him,these rhino are his property.

"These are mine.This is my property.

I can do with my rhinowhat I want."

And that's a very dangerousperspective.

This is wildlife as property.

One of the most...

I guess... humaneand uplifting pictures

I've seen in your story

was of a little rhino cub

that had lost its mother,

and, uh,I guess one of the rangers

had to spend the nightwith the cub.

It's a really beautiful image,and you see there are a lot

of good people who are fightingto stop this from happening,

a lot of good peoplewho are trying, uh,

-to-to end rhino poaching.-Yeah, the...

the population of peoplewho are dedicated

to saving these animalsis what gives me hope.

Before I let you go,someone reads the story,

someone goes,"Brian, you've touched me,

I didn't knowthis was a problem,"

or, "I want to help,I want to do something about it,

but I live in another place,"what can people do,

how can people get involved,and what do you hope to achieve?

Uh, well, I'll say this.

The... you know,I'm going to places where...


religion is, uh, under siege,

where, um,my right as a journalist,

freedom of the pressis under siege,

where-- these are dictatorships.


um, when those privilegesare at risk,

these sorts of things happen.

So the most important thingsomeone can do is vote.


Thank you so much for your time.

The October issueof National Geographi magazine

is available now.

It's a beautifuland tragic story.

Bryan Christy, everyone.