Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

New Group to Promote Humane Farming, Expose Animal Cruelty in Illinois

(Humane Society of the United States / Creative Commons)

Illinois farmers and animal welfare experts say they will promote farms where animals are raised humanely, following a Chicago Tribune investigation last year on the state’s biggest pork companies.

Cook County Jail Expands Family Planning, Birth Control Services

Most women in U.S. prisons and jails lack access to birth control. But for many of these women, incarceration is not the only obstacle to such care. A new program in Chicago is trying to change the trend.

Circus Elephants to Take Final Bow in Illinois

(Nazim Uddin / Flickr)

Illinois will become the first state to ban the use of elephants in circuses and other traveling exhibitions, putting an official end to a practice that animal rights activists have been protesting for decades.

3 Critically Endangered ‘Diving Duck’ Chicks Hatch at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Chris Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

The zoo’s newest residents are being hand-reared by keepers, and scientists will analyze their genetics as part of an international species survival plan.

Advocates Blast Ameren for Bucking Illinois Energy Savings Target

(Ameren Illinois / Facebook)

Residents in central and southern Illinois will pay nearly 30 percent more on utility bills than projected if Ameren is allowed to lower its energy savings target, environmental and consumer advocates said Wednesday.

Baby Monkey Born on Fourth of July at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Zingo, the first black-crested mangabey born at the zoo, has light-colored skin that will darken over time. 

EPA Cites S.H. Bell for ‘Excessive Manganese Emissions’ in Chicago

The bulk storage operator on Chicago’s Southeast Side has exceeded a federal threshold for emissions of toxic manganese dust, according to new air monitoring data published by the EPA.

Chicago Expands Investigation of Manganese Sources on Southeast Side

The city will monitor soil and air pollution near residents’ homes and begin increased inspections of industrial sites. 

Chicago Health Department Examines Rust-Colored Stains Linked to Manganese

An overhead photo of S.H. Bell's Chicago facility appears to show rust-colored stains from manganese handled by the company. (Google Maps)

A Chicago neighborhood once permeated with black dust from uncovered piles of petroleum coke now faces another toxic pollutant, but one that is not as visible or widespread.

ZooBrew Set For Aug. 25-26 at Brookfield Zoo

(Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

Sample more than 80 beers while taking in the zoo’s wildlife and nature at the sixth annual event.

A Day After Lawsuit, EPA’s Pruitt Backtracks on Delaying Pollution Rules

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said he does not believe in “regulation through litigation,” but his stance appears to be subject to change.

2 Plains Zebras Debut at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Lincoln Park Zoo)

The young males belong to a highly social zebra species and will eventually share a habitat with the zoo’s giraffes. 

Toxic Metals Study Examines Kids’ Toenails on Chicago’s Southeast Side

Chicago researchers are looking for lead, manganese and other metals that could affect lung function in children with asthma. 

Durbin to CDC: Investigate Manganese Risks on Chicago’s Southeast Side

The Illinois senator is calling on federal environmental and public health regulators to conduct a new assessment of toxic pollutants in one of the city’s most industrialized areas.

Cash for Carbon: Paying People to Conserve Trees Works, Study Finds

A first-of-its-kind study shows that giving people a financial incentive to save trees is an effective strategy for fighting climate change.

Shedd Researchers: Shark Eats Fishing Spear, Pushes it Out Through Skin

(© Joanne Fraser)

Just in time for “Shark Week,” researchers published a study this month that highlights the unique recovery capabilities of sharks.

Adler Astronomer Discovers Previously Invisible Star Formations


A team led by Adler Planetarium astronomer Grace Wolf-Chase used a telescope instrument to discover infrared light undetectable to the human eye, revealing new stars in the Milky Way. 

Shedd Unveils 1,600-Pound Seahorse Sculpture Made From Ocean Garbage

(©Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

Stella the Seahorse is the first of 19 marine animal sculptures made from plastic debris on display at Shedd Aquarium. 

Behind the Scenes at Lincoln Park Zoo’s New Penguin Encounter

Aje, a 2-year-old male penguin at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo)

For the first time, Lincoln Park Zoo is offering visitors a chance to get up close and personal with their African penguins. We meet three waddling, webbed-feet bachelors.

2 California Sea Lion Pups Debut at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

After spending their first weeks learning to swim and bonding with their mothers, Lucy and Taylor make their public debut.

Durbin Pushes for Release of Plan to Keep Asian Carp Out of Great Lakes

A hefty Bighead carp, one of several types of Asian carp, caught in a net near Morris, Illinois. (Evan Garcia / Chicago Tonight)

A plan to fortify a barrier against Asian carp was set to be released in February but has been stalled by the Trump administration. 

Report: Ameren Looking to Circumvent New Illinois Energy Law

(Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr)

Efficiency plans filed by Ameren Illinois fail to comply with the state’s new energy law and could prevent the creation of additional jobs, according to a new report. 

New Series ‘All My Penguins’ Captures Drama of Zoo’s Penguin Colony

(Lincoln Park Zoo)

Lincoln Park Zoo recently launched a web series to chronicle the latest crushes, power struggles and other dramatic twists and turns surrounding the lives of its 15 African penguins.

Project Examines Pregnancy in Illinois, Cook County Prisons

Women are the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population in the U.S., but data on pregnancies and births in prisons is either outdated or nonexistent. Illinois is now among 22 states participating in the first large-scale, comprehensive study of pregnancy in American prisons.

Snowy Owl Chicks Hatch at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Lincoln Park Zoo)

Visitors can expect snow flurries on their next trip to the zoo, even in the middle of summer. Four snowy owl chicks hatched last month are already flapping their wings and will soon attempt to fly.