Award-winning photojournalist Brent Stirton reveals the shocking and tragic reality of the illegal ivory trade. Despite the CITES Treaty of 1989, which banned the global trade of ivory and rhino horn, the unlawful business of killing elephants continues, resulting in the slaughter of thousands of endangered elephants in Africa. Following a three-year investigation with writer Bryan Christy into this corrupt multimillion-dollar industry, this documentary exposes the influence of religion in fueling the demand for ivory, which has led to the greatest elephant-poaching crisis in history.


Runtime:  14:56


Photography: Brent Stirton
Reporting and Video: Bryan Christy
Editor and Producer: Andrew Hida
Interviews: Andrew Hida

Archival Photographs: Tom Stoddart


Client: Reportage by Getty Images

Services Provided: Motion Graphics, Multimedia Production, Original Reporting

Publication Date: April 26, 2013


Reportage by Getty Images wanted to produce a short documentary on the global ivory trade based on staff photographer Brent Stirton’s photographs and writer Bryan Christy’s three-year investigation of the issue. This documentary would be featured in the first issue of Journal, a quarterly digital magazine that showcases the work of Reportage by Getty Images photographers.


  • Stirton and Christy’s work on the illegal ivory trade was originally published in the October 2012 issue of National Geographic in a story called “Blood Ivory.” The main challenge with this documentary was the need to produce a video that drew upon the facts and issues reported in the print article but through a separate and distinct story. The goal of the video was to provide an additional layer of understanding on the global ivory trade, not to simply recreate the print story in video form.
  • Working with such a large topic, it was important to simplify this complex issue. With multiple moving parts all interconnected, what information needed to be included and what could be excluded? How would I provide greater understanding of a global issue while at the same time scaling it down into a consumable video? Ultimately, many of these decisions came down to how well the visuals and narrative could interweave, and how effective the visuals could elevate the messaging of the narrative.   


The end result is a 15-minute video told through the eyes of the principle investigators. Through a dynamic back and forth between Brent Stirton and Bryan Christy, their voices carefully shape the narrative to provide a comprehensive understanding of the global ivory trade. They deliver first-hand anecdotes recalling what they witnessed, placing the viewer in the belly of the ivory factories, in the obsessions of the collectors, and at ground zero of the mass killing grounds of elephants in Africa. 

The video provides an in-depth and visceral experience for the viewer, sustained visually by a mix of audio, video, photographs, and motion graphics. The story is driven by a selection of music paired with the carefully paced narrative content. The result is a high-impact, sophisticated, personal story that forces the viewer to question the very policies and cultural practices that have allowed the global ivory trade lead to the greatest massacre of African elephants in history. 


2014. Nominee, The Webby Awards: Individual Documentary Episode

2014. Northern Short Course Contest: 3rd Place Team Multimedia