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But here’s a sad irony to ponder: What if that dream came at the expense of today’s Asian and African elephants, whose numbers are quickly dwindling because of habitat loss and poaching?

“In 50 years, we might not have those elephants,” said Joseph Bennett, an assistant professor and conservation researcher at Carleton University in Ontario. Dr. Bennett has spent his career asking hard questions about conservation priorities. With only so much funding to go around, deciding which species to save can be a game of triage.

Recently, he and a team of colleagues confronted a new question: If molecular biologists can potentially reconstruct extinct species, such as the woolly mammoth, should society devote its limited resources to reversing past wrongs, or on preventing future extinctions?

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