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A nation has found a large island containing dinosaurs! Primarily those of the late Cretaceous.

A nation willing to pour pretty much any amount of money into the project needs a way to safely contain such creatures in some kind of zoo in which they are easily viewable.

The problem? They're in the 1910s technology wise (although they're willing to pour more money into developing technologies to aid this), as such it is extremely difficult to contain them.

So, how exactly could a nation at least somewhat safely (the deaths of a few workers is acceptable) capture, handle, & contain dinosaurs in a zoo accessible to the public without bankrupting themselves?

Note: aside from the dinosaurs, everything else is pretty much the real life technology of the 1910s, nothing fancy or out there & no magic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 15:21

6 Answers 6

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Fences?

Dinosaurs aren't magic, and by the early 1900s, the technology was there for impressive engineering projects. If you can build a wrought-iron tower 300 meters tall, a dinosaur-containment fence is no problem.

Capturing? Pit traps and dozens or hundreds of people with ropes. The early 1900s were still the era of brute-force solutions, with heavy use of muscle power and unskilled labor.

Transport? Wrought-iron cages on wheels, pulled by steam tractors or simply large numbers of horses. And you want to get that cage to the coast as quickly as possible, so you can put it aboard a ship and send it to its destination.

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    $\begingroup$ Makes sense for containment but what about handling, you have to get them in there somehow $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ @OT-64SKOT Ropes and cages. Large animal handling is not something the Victorians were unaccustomed to. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @OT-64SKOT did you do even cursory research for early 1900's technology? Steam tractors and large ocean-going steam ships were perfectly normal, with commercial Diesel engines following soon after. $\endgroup$
    – Hackworth
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Hackworth i have spent a probably concerning amount of time looking into it, the problem i'm thinking is how do you keep something that large from messing everything up if it like gets injured or smth & you need to fix it. (i probably should have specified better but i am bad at words) $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ @OT-64SKOT It's all engineering. Making a cage a horse can't break out of is not that difficult. An elephant is stronger than a horse but not that much stronger. So you just make the walls a little thicker and you are good to go. A big dinosaur is stronger than an elephant so you make the walls a little thicker again. No magic needed. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 14:10
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I don't see any particularly big issues with trapping and/or moving dinosaurs - capturing and transporting animals has been going on since long before the Romans started using them as part of their bread-and-circus performances to distract the unwashed masses. Or later, when bear pits were popular entertainment.

In fact, as with elephants and bears, there's at least some possibility that dinosaurs could be trained and driven (in the elephant-herder sense) to their destination. Though carnivorous ones in particular are likely to be like modern reptiles; short bursts of activity to catch and consume prey, followed by lots of sleep. So they're not particularly practical beasts of burden!

Then too, the European victorian nations were well versed in the art of grabbing whatever looked interesting - living or otherwise - and shipping it back to their home country. This was the era when many of the great zoos in the world were founded and stocked with animals from around the world.

For instance, Cleopatra's needle (a 200 ton obilisk) was shipped from Egypt to England in 1877, for the equivalent cost of around $1.5m in today's money. And there'd been numerous improvements in transportation capabilities by 1910 - more rail infrastructure, early petrol/diesel vehicles, etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra%27s_Needle,_London

Finally, while most pop-culture dinosaurs are heavier than modern mammals, it's also worth noting that the Victorians were pretty adept when it came to dealing with extremely large animals. For instance, tens of thousands of whales (weighing up to 150 tons apiece) were butchered each year, and the numbers continued to rise as newer technologies facilitated the mechanisation of this process.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/world-s-whaling-slaughter-tallied-at-3-million

So logistically, there's probably not going to be any real issues with getting the dinosaurs into a European or American zoo. How long they survive once they get into the zoo is perhaps a different matter altogether, but then, the victorians tended to be quite blase about such things - after all, there were always more whales/animals/workers/etc where the first ones came from!

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  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure that I would expect dinosaurs to behave like modern reptiles---there is increasing evidence that they were endothermic (i.e. warm blooded). A better model might be modern flightless birds, such as ostriches, cassowaries (which will eat meat, given the chance), and emus. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 15:48
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Capture the island

The island is no man's land by the question, as it was "discovered" instead of dinosaurs being discovered on a known island. So, your state should attempt to claim the dinosaur island its own, by securing sea borders of the island, cutting a small part of it with a big enough wall of concrete to "contain the dinosaurs" outside the walled-off part, clear some forest right before the wall as it's done in fortification, and use that area as a military base and tourist attraction site available to travel by sea. In there, tourists could get on the wall's edge or travel round the island on a ship (warship if needed) and try spotting dinosaurs.

In order to attract dinosaurs to the wall, as it's inedible and, provided it's tall enough, imperceptible, also there would be noise and other factors scaring off dinosaurs while the wall is being built, a rather simple trolley road into the clearance before the wall could be placed and used to drop meat a good hundred meters into the dinosaur land. Or plain use catapults. Then the dinosaurs would be able to feed off that meat in the open, and tourists would be able to see them in detail. Use spyglasses mounted on the wall to allow close-up views to the dinosaurs. Also some attration could be gained from having a criminal that's sentenced to death be dropped off that wall to try combatting the reptiles, like in that old Colosseum of Rome, 1900-style, depending on whether the public morale is allowing such brutality.

Speaking of anything flying, military could use sniper rifles to bring any offending pterodactyl down before it crosses the wall, or flak cannons, or shrapnel, or plain blanks in order to scare them off with heavy sound. If something they'd classify as prey would retaliate, the predators would likely retreat to find better prey, and since they had survived unnoticed by the humanity on that island for this long, there should be some source of meat for them to survive. Just make a good recon and not break that source prior to interfering, or else they would get extinct too fast. (Perimeter recon should be enough, as humans won't get too deep into dino territory with their works.)

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Tranquiliser. Truck. Moat.

Sneak up on the dinosaur at night when he is cold and sluggish. Zap him with tranquiliser darts. Put him on the truck and drive him to the enclosure. The enclosure has a tall fence and moat. Big animals have trouble with moats.

enter image description here

You will accidentally kill a lot of dinosaurs before you find the best dose of tranquilizer and how to load them onto the truck. Make those guys into dino-burgers for your hungry crew!

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    $\begingroup$ Tranquilizer? Truck? The question says 1910, penicillin has just been discovered, no plastics, almost no engines of heavy load (external combustion is present but barely any tractor is made), and it's a frikking island somewhere out there so just the truck won't cut even if it would be available. Moat - maybe, but late Cretaceous also contains T-Rex's which apparently had no real problem with moats. Yet, a moat with a wall right past it would probably do. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Vesper Valium/heroin/opium. Horse drawn truck. Boat. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Vesper Large animals have trouble with ditches and moats. You must provide some reasoning for T-rex to be different. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ Part of the problem here is that we don't actually know if dinosaurs would have problems with a moat. It's theoretically true that, since elephants do, they might also... but we really don't know. The T-Rex bone structure suggests much more agile legs than an elephant's. They might not have trouble with anything that isn't wide enough and deep enough to make it impossible to get them out without shooting them and cutting them up. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Vesper Opium probably would work. The opiate receptors are highly conserved across animal lines. In fact the earliest narcotics assay was a strip of frog intestine strung between force gauges. If the receptors are in amphibians then it’s highly like they would have been in the early reptiles. $\endgroup$
    – IRTFM
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 14:03
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Electric fences

Electric fences are wonderful for controlling large livestock. They are lightweight, easy to set up and move, and restrain the beast both physically and psychologically.

United States Patent 343,939 was issued in 1886. The Kaiser's army built the Wire of Death in 1914-15.

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Kong Island:

In the movies the islanders generally build a wall to contain Kong to his side of the Island. This inevitably fails of course but dinosaurs aren't King King.

Your modern nation on the other hand has access to concrete, steel, construction explosives and powered construction equipment including cranes etc as well as large caliber, high velocity center fire rifles and early machine guns etc. Their wall wont fail! Assuming money is no object early 20th century engineers would be more than capable of designing and building a wall high and strong enough to deter any conventional dino. Other defenses could also easily be added if needed, including things like noise makers and marksmen posts to deter or kill approaching dinos. And you could also add any and all sorts of outer defenses you want to make it harder for any approaching animals. (I'm not going to add potential options here but the list is long.)

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    $\begingroup$ Ideally when running a disnosaur zoo you want the dinosaurs to both be alive & approach edges of the containment area so people can look at them. $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ Also, "The Valley of Gwangi" in which an Allosaurus is roped by cowboys and captured to be displayed at a rodeo. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Wastrel
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @OT-64SKOT, the early-1900s attitude was that individual dinosaurs (or elephants, or rhinos) are disposable. If one escapes, or even looks like it's going to escape, shoot it. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ @OT-64SKOT The reference to defences like noise makers and marksman posts was not to suggest they must be used but rather could be in emergencies. e.g. a work crew is cleaning up or working on the ground outside the perimeter or perhaps working on part of the external wall itself and a carnivorous dinosaur approaches. Obviously you want dinos to approach, just not all the time under all circumstances. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 21:13

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