Forrest Galante from Extinct or Alive talks expeditions and preservation of animals

Photo credit: Extinct or Alive/Animal Planet -- Acquired via Animal Planet PR
Photo credit: Extinct or Alive/Animal Planet -- Acquired via Animal Planet PR /

Forrest Galante takes viewers on expeditions in Extinct or Alive to find out whether the animals we believe are extinct really are. Now he talks about preservation efforts, the message of hope, and much more in this exclusive interview.

Extinct or Alive sees Forrest Galante and his team search for proof that the animals and species we once believed to be extinct are actually alive. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been to jungles, rainforests, and more, places where humans will hardly ever go, except for expeditions like this. We get a chance to learn more about the creatures and species, the research that led to the belief of extinction, and the reasons people believe they’re still alive.

However, the show is more than just finding the animals. In this exclusive interview, Forrest shares the message of hope that this type of research and the expedition findings bring. He also gives us an insight into the research before and the work after to make this more than just a simple trip to the rainforests.

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Hidden Remote: So you’re back on your travels. You sound busy.

Forrest Galante: I am busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

HR: It stops you from getting bored.

FG: That’s right.

HR: Your current show, Extinct or Alive, has been so much fun and so interesting watching it with my girls. They’re big animal fans, so they’ve really enjoyed seeing creatures they would never get to see otherwise. How did the idea for this show come about?

FG:  To be honest, I’d love to take credit for it, but it was a buddy of mine and a producer and partner on the show. He had a rough concept that was something relatively close to Extinct or Alive and we sat down and had breakfast one day and he told me about. He was like, “Forrest, you’re so great with wildlife, would you like to be a part of this.” I said, “Yeah, of course, I would. It sounds fantastic and just like what I do.”

Over time the idea morphed into what it is today and the show got created and it’s absolutely a dream come true.

HR: How long does it take to do the research part of this?  There must be so much to do to figure out which animals might still be around.

FG: That is such a…I say this with a heavy hand. It’s never-ending. There’s no set amount of time. I’ve been researching rare and extinct animals since I was 12 years old. It’s really never-ending.

When we’re in pre-production, it’s not just a normal TV show. It’s a case of where we’re going, who we’ll meet, how many days of hiking, who’s going to carry the gear. And then all the wildlife side of it. Is the habitat conducive for the family, is it compatible for the prey, are there reliable sighting reports. The research that goes into it is massive.

Photo credit: Extinct or Alive/Animal Planet — Acquired via Animal Planet PR
Photo credit: Extinct or Alive/Animal Planet — Acquired via Animal Planet PR /

HR: How much are you involved with in the research?

FG: 100%, top to bottom. I’m a producer on the show, the host on the show. This show, unlike my understanding of most other television shows, is a mission and you follow me on it. The production team turns to me to find out where we’re going and what we’re looking for. It’s up to me to make all the connections and contacts, find the people, determine whether or not the creature could still be there, and then go on the expedition.

HR: Do you have different teams to help out with different sections?

FG: Nope. We have one small team, one core group.

HR: Wow!

FG: Everywhere we go, we meet locals who have had sightings and reports and we get what’s called a fixer. But as far as rotating teams, no. We just have one little team of 7-8 of us and we’re a core group. We’re glued at the hip and stuck together all around the world.

HR: But then it must be fun and like a bit of a family jutting around the world together.

FG: It is absolutely a family. I’ve never become so close to a bunch of strangers so quickly in my life because it’s just…you don’t have a choice, you know? You sleep together, you eat together, you hike together, you have to be compatible together. It’s 24 hours a day and it’s really fun.

HR: You’re going into territory humans don’t usually go into and there’s always that chance that you’ll find out the research about extinction is actually true. Does it ever get nervous going into all this?

FG: I wouldn’t say nervous is the right word. The expectation is that you don’t find the creature. We’re looking for an extinct animal. It’s the needle in the haystack, to say the least. The odds are stacked very heavily against us. Thankfully, I’m a gambling man and I like the slim odds. I like testing myself. There’s not a lot of wildlife, common wildlife that I try to find. The pressure for me to find that nobody else can find fuels and inspires it.

Sometimes they do fizzle out to nothing. As I said, that’s the expectation. That’s just part of it and you try not to get discouraged by that.

HR: What’s been your favorite expedition so far?

FG: Favorite is a tough term. I would say, my favorite expedition just because of the outcome alone was Zanzibar, where we did find—we got on video—an animal that’s believed to have been extinct for more than 25 years and it’s not a tiny frog or something; it’s a full grown adult lion almost. Although the expedition might not have been my favorite, the outcome was mind-blowing and I’d have to say because of that that’s my favorite.

Extinct or Alive
Photo credit: Extinct or Alive/Animal Planet — Acquired via Animal Planet PR /

HR: That’s the thing. How do people miss something so large?

FG: These animals are adaptive and very intelligent and they’re very good at hiding. When a species has been driven to the brink of extinction—or to extinction as they presume—the animals adapt and change their ecology and environment so they avoid persecution and ridicule. What’s amazing is that with eight billion creatures on this planet, there are creatures that can hide from us and not be seen by us for 25 years.

HR: Is there an animal that you’d like to find? Something you’ve come across the research but not been able to get out to find yet?

FG: Oh, there’s more than one! There’s a very lengthy list for multiple reasons. Some are creatures I believe from my research can still be out there. There are creatures that people say “no way, they’re absolutely gone,” and I still want to get out and search. That list is extremely extensive.

HR: It sounds like you have a lot of fun with the expeditions, even if the animals turn out extinct. It sounds like you have a lot of fun with it.

FG: Oh, I absolutely do. Even more so that doing the process is the takeaway message from it. To not get too waffly, it’s so important to understand why these creatures went extinct. What mistakes we as humans made to drive them to extinction and learn from that and implement techniques to avoid that for other species.

So, for me, every expedition is a learning process because there’s such an important biological takeaway that we as humans have made. And the best way to learn from them is to experience them.

HR: So has your research helped others to find a way to stop other animals from going extinct?

FG: Oh yes, I work with dozens of universities, private companies, non-profits, you name it. My day, every single day is full of speaking with biological groups around the world, taking away from my research, helping right papers, giving notes on tracking, giving notes on just general wildlife. I would say I, not just my show and expeditions but me personally, help with all kinds of wildlife research worldwide.

HR: It’s amazing.

FG: I love that. For me, it’s not about fame or television or exposure. It’s about education and contribution to conservation.

HR: And it’s also not just about proving someone wrong. It’s a chance to see the animals adapting.

FG: And what greater message for hope is there that something we’ve written off for 25, 50, 75, 100 years is still hanging on by a thread, on its own, undetected by humans beings? And then we find it and help contribute to saving it. What a message of hope that is. We’ve written it off completely and we give it a second chance. That really fuels what I do.

HR: This was going to be my last question. You say you work with the universities and organizations to help understand and learn, but now that you’ve found the animals are still alive, are you involved with the next stage to help the animals continue to exist and for them to grow.

FG: The short answer is yes.

Ongoing, it’s extremely challenging and time-consuming but I don’t do all of what I do to just hand it off to someone else. I’m currently, as recently as last night, on the phone to officials in Zanzibar government to implement their conservation efforts for their tiny little park they have. It’s ongoing and it’s a lot to juggle but I am continually involved in preservation.

HR: Thank you so much for your time and insight!

Next: Fear Island's Bradley Trevor Greive talks finding Grandfather

What have you thought of Extinct or Alive? Would you like to learn more about the previously believed extinct creatures? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Extinct or Alive with Forrest Galante continues on Sundays at 9/8c on Animal Planet, with the search for the Tasmanian Tiger in the upcoming episode.