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Over 100,000 years ago giant megafauna roamed the earth such as mammoths, gigantopithecus, and giant sloths. fast forward to today and most megafauna are extinct (with the notable exception being in Africa) the probable culprit HUMANS! so what I want to know is how do I preserve some of the Megafauna like mammoths and the Siberian unicorn at least into the middle ages.

NOTE: preserve in this case doesn't mean they have to live near human or even live in large numbers they just need a stable breeding population somewhere and yes i do intend to have humans (and a bunch of other fantasy races inhabit my world so ending mankind isn't much of an option here.

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    $\begingroup$ most people aren't going to know that the Siberian Unicorn was actually more like a buffalo with a single horn rather than an actual mythical unicorn, so good on you for saying no magic! $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Feb 6 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ The gigantic birds of Madagascar survived into the early Middle Ages, and the gigantic birds of New Zealand survived into the 15th century... because Madagascar and New Zealand remained unpopulated by humans to the 3rd and respectively late 13th century. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 6 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP We still have Megafauna currently. Moose. Elephants. Buffalo. Giraffes. Hippopotami. Rhinoceroses, bovines, deer, red kangaroo. Pretty much any animal over about 100 pounds is considered a megafauna... $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Feb 6 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby If you count any animal over about 100 pounds, most adult humans are megafauna and I've met several dogs that qualify. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Feb 6 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ Vinegar or possibly Formaldehyde would be the best options, assuming a massive freezer isn't available. $\endgroup$ – EDL Apr 29 at 0:32
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There are two ways to preserve megafauna as seen in our world’s history, and the two case studies will serve as names for the models.

The Madagascar Scenario

Elephant Birds were the largest avians to ever tread the earth since the K-T extinction 65 million years ago, and they survived well into the Middle Ages. This is because human beings did not reach Madagascar until this time, so the Elephant Birds were spared human depredations. So one easy way to retain megafauna is to simply have significant regions that are geographically isolated from humans as to prevent any interaction.

The Afro-Asiatic Scenario

Mammoths and Mastodons are dead, yet elephants remain in Africa and Asia. While the exact reason as to why elephants and rhinos survived humanity while their wooly cousins in Europe and North Asia didn’t, one theory is that they were wise to the ways of human hunters.

Take the zebra and the horse as smaller examples. Horses were driven to extinction in North America by Paleo-Indians, and Wild horses very nearly suffered the same fate in Eurasia (their domestic cousins don’t count). But Zebras are still abundant to the tune of hundreds of thousands if not millions.

This is because Zebras take absolutely no shit from humans. Just try approaching one and you’ll learn really quick why they’ve never been domesticated. Zebras are very quick to run, inherently distrustful of humans and aggressive in defense.

To have your charismatic megafauna exist in proximity to humans, make them wary beasts who are quick to run or fight humans. There is a reason why the elephant bird is extinct and the tiger is not.

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Seems like killing off all the humans is the most effective solution. Early on, there were few enough that one good plague could have done the job.

If you need the people alive, then I suggest making potassium extremely rare. Humans can survive on a deficit, but it limits our ability to think. By keeping humans relatively dumb, they won’t be able to organize and plan, which was their big leg up on the other creatures. Small pockets of potassium will let cities spring up in limited places, but not much spreading out or significant population booms.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't potassium doom the megafauna just as much because it's needed for cellular homeostasis and the sodium-potassium pump and bigger animals obviously need more of it? I have a hard time seeing a 6 ton mammoth being able to get enough potassium to survive in an environment where humans can't even get enough to properly function from their diet. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Feb 9 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ @user2352714 bio isn’t my specialty. I was under the impression that most creatures only needed a small amount and we were special in our needs because of our brains. But I could be wrong about that. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 9 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ A mammoth brain is about 3-4 times the size of a human in absolute (not relative) size, so it would need about that much potassium give or take. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Feb 9 at 20:06
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Smarter Humans

If only we realised the possibilities of extinction earlier, there may be a chance that hunter-gatherers would be careful about driving species to extinction. The only way this would be the case is if early humans were cautious about hunting and did not hunt to extremes, and were more educated earlier on regarding nature and numbers of animals around them.

Perhaps also if there were possibilities of domesticating or breeding megafauna then this could also preserve their species further.

Other food sources

Another perhaps is making humans less carnivorous for mega-fauna, ie. Our tastes are not inclined to eat much animals but prefer more plant-based food. Or perhaps plant based food is more easier to cultivate than to hunter-gather animals, which would reduce the need for humans to hunt mega-fauna so ferociously.

Smarter Megafauna

If the megafauna species in question were smarter, they could retreat to more isolated positions, or be too troublesome to be killed easily by humans.

Recognising habitat loss perhaps could also push megafauna to adapt, however humans did so rapidly that this wasn't an option.

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    $\begingroup$ Smarter humans so far have completely failed to prevent anything from extinction, on the very contrary (apart from our own species, but it could be argued that we're still trying very hard. While individual intelligent humans do fit your bill, neither do all intelligent humans, nor have we proven to be very intelligent in large numbers. $\endgroup$ – Burki Feb 7 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Burki Ahah yes I get what you're saying, but perhaps if we were more smart than we are now. I suppose our level of smartness has not changed since we evolved, what would have happened if we began just that little bit more smarter? (BTW - I'm an optimist, I'm sure that there would be a collective regrouping rethinking and changing of human culture in the near future...) $\endgroup$ – flox Feb 7 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ I doubt that intelligence will help there. Humans are greedy and egoistic (because these traits are favored by evolution). And Megafauna is either deadly or competes for resources. Most such animals are driven to extinction long before humans even notice that the planet is not infinite in size and resources. $\endgroup$ – Burki Feb 7 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ @flox Domestication might work, it might not. Humans almost drove horses to extinction until a small number of north Asian cultures circa 4000 B.C.E. realized that horses were more valuable as domestic animals than food. It's thought they domesticated some of the last surviving herds, Przewalski's horses are thought to be secondarily wild. Humans almost wiped out all horses on Earth despite how useful they have proven throughout history (indeed, the aforementioned people may have been the proto-Indo-Europeans) and only preserved them out of sheer dumb luck and the actions of a few cultures. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Feb 9 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ “Resources exist to be consumed.” If the megafauna have more human value dead than alive, humans will wipe them out. Some intelligent humans may keep them around in preserves, but I doubt as part of regular ecology. Tragedy of the commons. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 9 at 23:00
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Have it so the Ice Age never ends. This would allow megafauna to survive in North America, as glaciers would prevent ancient humans from crossing over Beringia.

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  • $\begingroup$ It wouldn't stop them from just building boats and sailing across. That's how humans got to Australia, New Zealand, and Madagascar, and sailing the Pacific coast is one way that humans have been suggested to have gotten past the glaciers to North America. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Feb 9 at 0:55

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