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Elephant populations in the wild have suffered tremendously throughout much of Africa. The largest land mammals on Earth, elephants require huge home ranges as they migrate across much of Africa throughout their lives. Their populations have become stressed in the past century in part because of ivory harvest, suburbanization of African villages, competition with humans for scarce water resources, and a shorter life expectancy.

Five legged Africal elephant.

Five legged African elephant.

Researchers throughout Africa have grown concerned about elephants dying at a younger age than their ancestors. EJSIC caught up with Dr. Ugyeh Mbambuni, one of the world’s foremost elephant researchers to learn more about the threats facing these giant creatures and what Americans can do to help them. “Elephants migrate hundreds of miles every year and Kenyan villages along their migratory corridor increase the number of human-elephant encounters, which usually end with those ‘problem elephants’ being terminated. Furthermore, elephants lose their teeth throughout their lives. They have six sets of teeth and once they’ve lost all six sets, they don’t produce a seventh set and die of starvation.”

The NHL, and particularly Gary Bettman, have started a rewarding program that donates all lost teeth during NHL games to starving elephants in Africa. “It’s our hope that this small gesture will allow an old elephant to live longer than would otherwise have been possible,” a somber Bettman stated.

During the 2008 season, the NHL was able to provide 61 teeth to the starving African elephants, but Bettman expects that number to increase in the future as the NHL partners with college programs and Canadian travel teams.

“Ultimately, we’d like to expand this program internationally and take advantage of hockey teams and hockey players from Russia, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and anywhere hockey is played,” stated an optimistic Bettman.

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