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Elephant sculpture on parade

Nomkhubulwane, a life-size elephant sculpture made of recycled truck tires by a South African artist – with the goal of catalyzing a conversation about  our changing relationship with the natural world – is in Chicago through July 30.

Sculptor Andries Botha will be in Chicago for the coming week and has several educational activities scheduled.

This Saturday, June 12, at 10 a.m., Botha will be joined by singer/songwriter Claudia Schmidt and Chicago artist David Csicsko for an interactive arts program for children at IIT’s Crown Hall, 34th and State, where the elephant has been located for the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, June 15 at 7 p.m., Botha will discuss “public intellectuals and public space” at the University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th, joined by Theaster Gates, director of arts programming for the university.

Friday, June 18, at 11:30 a.m., Botha will be joined by Vance Martin of the WILD Foundation, a global organization focused on wilderness conservation, for a lecture titled, “Can We Live Without the Elephant?”  That’s at Rice Hall in the Field Museum.  (Pre-registration for the lecture, at, includes free admission to the museum.)

Nomkhubulwane moves to Merchandise Mart Sunday for next week’s Neocon design show, and on to the Field Museum on Thursday.  The sculpture, one of 17 created by Botha, began its journey to North America with a visit to Mexico for the World Wildlife Conference last September.  Its Chicago stay is organized by Imagine Chicago.

As the largest land mammal, the elephant “represents the power and vulnerability of the environment,” Botha has said.  His sculptures “represent the world of nature from which we have removed ourselves and for which we increasingly yearn.”  Kids like them, too.

The goal of Botha’s Human Elephant Foundation is to foster “collaborative conversations that bring about a more supportive relationship with a planet in crisis.”

“As the world becomes increasingly populated and territorial, threats to both elephants and humans increase.”

The world’s elephant population has dropped from between 5- and 10-million a hundred years ago to roughly 500,000 today.  Some African elephant populations are stable but some are threatened by illegal poaching; Chad’s elephant population has dropped from 300,000 to 10,000 since 1970.  Despite a 21-year ban on the ivory trade, there’s been “a dramatic surge in illegal trafficking since 2005,” according to AFP.

Stopping dog fights; adopting kittens

Martial arts champion (and animal lover) Andre “The Pit Bull” Arlovski will speak to Englewood students tomorrow – and the Humane Society‘s Pit Bull Training Team will give a performance – as  part of a growing campaign against violence and dog fighting.

The presentations take place at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, June 10) at Team Englewood High School, 6201 S. Stewart, according to the Anti-Cruelty Society, which is cosponsoring the event.

The pit bull team gives weekly trainings at sites in Austin and Englewood for dogs and their owners, including individuals and pets who have been involved in dog fighting.  Some graduates become anti-dogfighting advocates who recruit students, give presentations in schools, and break up fights.

The goal is “to completely change the culture of pit bull ownership in this community,” says trainer Jeff Jenkins in a short Humane Society video.  (And in another short video, watch 13-year-old Terrence Murphy, with his dog Elmo, talk about the program.)

The Humane Society estimates that 250,000 dogs die in dog fights each year in the United States.

For more on the pit bull training team, see reports in Time Out Chicago and the Chicago Defender, and Jenkins’ blog on last summer’s training.


In other ACS news, it’s “kitten season,” with an annual warm-weather increase in kitten litters and in kittens left at the society’s shelter at 157 W. Grand.  Through August 31, people adopting two cats will have the adoption fee for one of them waived.  It’s not limited to a single home – two friends can each adopt and split one fee.

Pet care for the unemployed

With layoffs continuing to mount, the Anti-Cruelty Society is offering free veterinary services for pet owners who have lost their jobs.

“We want to help make sure that people who are unemployed can get veterinary care for their pets,” said Emily Ledergerber.

Free veterinary exams, annual vaccinations, tests and treatment for fleas, ear mites, ticks, and heartworms, and free spaying/neutering appointments, will be available one day only, on Wednesday, April 29, at the Society’s shelter at 157 W. Grand.

Pet owners must make an appointment ahead of time (at 312-644-8338) and must provide proof of unemployment.

The one-day trial run will be repeated if it turns out to be successful, Ledergerber said.

Carriage companies challenged

Animal rights activists shut down horse carriage traffic on Michigan Avenue last Friday — the first time a city ordinance banning carriage operations when temperatures drop below 15 degrees has been enforced, they say — and the city is responding to complaints by shutting down one horse carriage company as of January 1.

A network of animal rights activists from a number of groups, gathered around the open web forum Ban The Carriage, has been holding weekly protests at North Michigan Avenue carriage stands since December 6, calling for a complete ban on the industry. This month regular protests are being held on Saturdays starting at noon; unannounced protests are being held at other times, said activist Marcos Alcozer.

Last Friday temperatures reached 13 degrees and protestors called police repeatedly, Alcozer said. When they arrived they were unfamiliar with the ordinance, “but they verified it and checked the weather conditions and ordered the carriages to go home,” he said.

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Chickens in Chicago

When the City Council considered an ordinance banning chickens from the city late last year, the folks at the Angelic Organics Learning Center in Woodlawn e-mailed fellow urban agriculture supporters. The ordinance was tabled, but the center heard back from several Chicago chicken owners and many others who were interested in learning more.

It’s illegal to slaughter chickens (or any animal) at your home in Chicago, but it’s legal to raise them for pets — or for eggs, said Martha Boyd of Angelic Organic’s urban initiative.

People are interested not just to save on the rising price of eggs, she said. It’s also knowing the eggs you eat didn’t come from chickens fed antibiotics in closely confined factory farms.

Depending on breed, most hens lay an egg a day or so during the couple of years when they are laying, Boyd said. “And chickens make great pets,” she said — “and their waste makes great fertilizer for your garden.”

This Saturday, Angelic Organics will offer its first workshop on basic backyard chicken care for Chicago residents (Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Chicken farmers from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm in Ottawa, Illinois, and Chicago chicken owners will discuss chicken raising basics, as well as relevant city regulations. “The idea is to teach good practices so you avoid problems with your neighbors or with the city,” Boyd said.

In-town chicken keepers have been invited to bring photos, coop designs, stories, and perhaps a favorite bird.

Registration for the workshop is full, and a waiting list is growing for the next workshop, which Boyd expects will be held next spring. She says that in Portland and Madison, city chicken boosters hold tours of coops (in Portland it’s actually called “Tour de Coop”). “I can see that happening here in no time at all,” she said.

The urban outreach project of a ten-year-old community-supported organic farm near Rockford, Angelic Organics Learning Center works with community partners on urban gardens in areas where fresh food is hard to find.

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