Life Size Origami Elephant to Highlight Problem of Wildlife Trade at EXPO CHICAGO

CHICAGO – Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will present the work of Sipho Mabona at EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, taking place at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall from September 22-25 to raise awareness of the threat posed by the international trade of ivory and rhino horn.

Mabona, a Swiss artist with South African roots, will showcase his intricate and delicate origami animals in NRDC’s booth – including a life size elephant made from a single sheet of paper. 30% of net proceeds from sales of Mabona’s artwork at EXPO CHICAGO will support NRDC.  

The illegal trafficking of wildlife is a growing problem that is driving an increasing number of species to the brink of extinction. Elephants, whose ivory tusks are used for jewelry and decorations, are in particularly dire straits with scientists predicting that the African forest elephant could go extinct in less than a decade. An elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes, and the surging demand for rhino horns on the Asian medicine market has led to record levels of poaching.

“Between 2010 and 2012, more than 100,000 elephants were poached for their tusks, putting this magnificent species in serious trouble. NRDC’s collaboration with Sipho will expose a larger audience to the dangers posed by the illegal ivory trade,” said Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC’s wildlife trafficking initiative.

Worth at least $19 billion per year, the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest illegal trade in the world, behind narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.  

This exhibit is just one of the strategies NRDC is employing to save elephants from extinction. At the same time EXPO CHICAGO is happening in Chicago, a delegation of NRDC staff will be at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in South Africa fighting for protections for elephants, rhinos, pangolins, and other species. CITES is the only international mechanism to regulate the trade in animals and plants. NRDC will be lobbying the convention’s 182 member countries to support a resolution encouraging countries to follow our nation’s lead and ban their domestic ivory markets.

“Sipho’s artistic vision helps people understand the threat of wildlife trade in a whole new light, proving that art can be a powerful tool for environmental advocacy. Visitors will be inspired by the subtlety of his work and reminded of the delicate balance of the natural world” said Elizabeth Corr, NRDC’s Manager of Art Partnerships.

Tony Karman, President and Director of EXPO CHICAGO remarked, “NRDC has a great track record as a Special Exhibitions Partner at EXPO. Their exhibits creatively explore the intersection of art and advocacy to spur greater awareness of key environmental issues. I am delighted to work with them again this year to support the protection of elephants.”

Additional Links:

NRDC Wildlife Trade page:

Elly Pepper & Elizabeth Corr CITES/EXPO blog:

Origami Elephant Time Lapse:

Learn more about NRDC’s efforts by visiting Booth 113 at EXPO CHICAGO or: For more information about EXPO CHICAGO, including the complete schedule, visit:


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


EXPO CHICAGO/2016, The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, is presented by Art Expositions, LLC. Now in its fifth year as a leading international art fair, EXPO CHICAGO (Sept. 22 – 25, 2016) is a four-day art event featuring more than 145 leading international galleries and offering diverse programming including /Dialogues, IN/SITU, IN/SITU Outside, EXPO VIDEO and the Curatorial Forum. Under the leadership of President and Director Tony Karman, EXPO CHICAGO draws upon the city’s rich history as a vibrant international cultural destination, while highlighting the region’s contemporary arts community and inspiring its collector base. For more information about EXPO CHICAGO and EXPO ART WEEK visit

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