National Geographic Channel has inked a development deal with Ex-Machina producer DNA Films & TV and FX Productions on what would be the network’s first scripted series. The thriller project,
with a working title of Blood Ivory, traces the massive global web of contraband animals and ivory, and its connection to the trafficking of narcotics, people and weapons. The series exposes a shocking underworld that rewards greed and bloodshed while helping to fund the madness of terrorist regimes.

Emmy winner Joshua Brand, the creator of Northern Exposure and now a writer on FX’s The Americans, has been tapped to a write the pilot.

The move comes after NatGeo signaled an expansion into original scripted programming with the hire last month of longtime Shine executive Carolyn Bernstein as EVP, Head of Global Scripted Development and Production. She is the first dedicated scripted executive for the cable network, and she started Monday but already is making moves.

Bryan Christy, a veteran reporter of wildlife trafficking wars and chief correspondent for National Geographic Magazine’s new Special Investigations Unit — will consult on Blood Ivory after his latest undercover ivory investigation was featured on the cover of the September issue and in the “Warlords Of Ivory” episode of NatGeo’s series Explorer. (See the trailer for the episode below.)

NatGeo ventured into scripted programming with its popular Killing movie franchise. Its latest scripted effort, the mini Saints & Strangers, just received three Critics’ Choice nominations. Other scripted projects in development include Last Men Out from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson and In Harm’s Way with Mark Gordon and ABC Signature Studios.