Forrest Galante discusses the extraordinary finds in Extinct or Alive Season 2

Forrest Galante with the Fernandina Tortoise they discovered, Fern.. Extinct or Alive.. Image Courtesy Discovery
Forrest Galante with the Fernandina Tortoise they discovered, Fern.. Extinct or Alive.. Image Courtesy Discovery /

Forrest Galante is back with his journey to find out if animals really are extinct. There are some amazing finds in Extinct or Alive Season 2, and Forrest discusses one in particular with Hidden Remote.

Extinct or Alive is back for a second season. When we talked to Forrest Galante about the Pondicherry during Shark Week, we knew that the second season was in the works. Now that second season is going to premiere tonight, and we got the chance to talk about the first amazing find of the season.

Back in February 2019, Galante helped find the Fernandina tortoise, thought to be extinct for more than 100 years. It’s the first journey we go on in Extinct or Alive Season 2, and Hidden Remote had the chance to speak exclusively about what fans will get to see in the episode and the rest of the season to come.

Hidden Remote: If I’m right in thinking, the tortoise find will be the first episode of Extinct or Alive Season 2.

Forrest Galante: Right.

HR: So, can you tease some of the journey that we’ll go on in this first episode?

Galante: Certainly. I mean, what you see in any episode of Extinct or Alive is a highlight reel that’s the culmination of years of research, weeks or months of fieldwork. You get us for an hour on your screens, but it’s years of research and planning. You only get a glimpse of the big picture.

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But it is an incredible journey. We travel to the Galapagos to one of the most remote islands with the second-most active volcano in the world. They’re exceeding temperatures of 122F, with heat literally radiating out of the ground. We cross this lava shard, looking for isolated pockets and habitat in which we hope could harbor the ongoing existence of the Fernandina Island Giant Galapagos Tortoise.

As the world already knows, we were actually successful in this, whereas the news about the Pondicherry came out during Shark Week. Lonesome George used to be the poster child of conservation in Galapagos. Now it’s Fern who is the rarest animal in the world. This is honestly the pinnacle of my career.

HR: It must be hard to choose how much of the journey you see on the screen.

Galante: It’s extremely hard. It’s months and years of planning and preparation. But there’s nothing always to show. It’s not like there’s a cameraman sitting over my shoulder right now in my office. I spend a lot of time emailing or on the phone, trying to get permits and permission. None of that makes good TV.

I sometimes have critics saying “well, why didn’t you just do this. You would have got there sooner.” I’m like “Guy, we’re showing a highlight reel of an hour, here.” I was quiet out there for a month. I didn’t talk to my crew for eight days because we were sitting in silence. You see the one minute where I turn over and whisper something to the camera that I think it’s coming. There’s a lot that isn’t interesting for TV.

Forrest Galante Side Profile Standing On volcanic rock 02.. Extinct or Alive.. Image Courtesy Discovery
Forrest Galante Side Profile Standing On volcanic rock 02.. Extinct or Alive.. Image Courtesy Discovery /

HR: I know Fern is now in captivity. Why would you put her there instead of the area she’s survived in for so long?

Galante: That’s a great question. First of all, Fernandina Island has the second-most active volcano in the world. At any point in time, it can go off. That single isolated patch in which Fern was living can be covered in lava, effectively wiping out the species all-together, you know? She could be the very last one.

We also found her practically starving to death. She’s managed to hang on for years, so she is a survivor but she very well may not have made it. She was extremely dehydrated, very malnourished, and underweight. We made the decision to take her to the facility to protect her.

Also, tortoises are able to retain viable sperm within them and asexually reproduce. Fern may have mated with a male 10 or 15 years ago. That male may have died but there’s still a chance she has viable sperm within her. Once her body weight and temperature are brought back up, she could be able to lay viable eggs and effectively save the species.

The final, and probably most important reason, for captivity, is this is a breeding facility where Lonesome George lived out his days. It’s notable for taking care of tortoises. It’s brought more exposure than the TV show does. Looking at her eyes, at her face, it’s helped to find millions of conservations dollars and opened tons of doors for research and ongoing scientific work.

There’s a trip in December to look for a male for her. Our trip to Fernandina is the first in 114 years because everyone thought she was extinct. Now we have this urgency to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.

I think we made the right decision. She’s gained nine pounds now. She spent the first two weeks in her water dish because she was so dehydrated. She was so excited just to see water that she wouldn’t get out of it. It was lovely to see her in the breeding facility where she could drink and be happy.

Related Story. Forrest Galante discusses research involved in Extinct or Alive. light

HR: That’s so sweet! Will you be heading on the new expedition in December?

Galante: That’s still unclear. I’m consulting on it for sure. I can tell them where to go and how to search because I’ve managed to find Fern. I’m not sure whether I’ll go on it or not yet.

Forrest Galante With An Iguana Smiling Close Up Shot.. Extinct or Alive.. Image Courtesy Discovery
Forrest Galante With An Iguana Smiling Close Up Shot.. Extinct or Alive.. Image Courtesy Discovery /

HR: I find it fascinating that she can hold onto viable sperm for so long. Is there hope to bring the species back from extinction then?

Galante: It’s fantastically interesting. That’s just one way we can bring the species back. There’s artificial insemination, finding a male for crossbreeding with their closest living relative on a neighboring island, there are multiple options.

In this awful little patch of vegetation where she was basically starving and dying of thirst was not the right option for saving the species. Now we have multiple options.

HR: But isn’t she about 100?

Galante: That’s our estimate. That being said, tortoises can reproduce until they die. So yes, there’s a time limit. She’s getting older every day, as we all are, but it’s not as dire as a small fluffy mammal that has a shorter breeding ability window.

Sadly, though, that parts out of my hands. I don’t have control over breeding or finding males. I wish I did. I wish I could be in the Galapagos right now, making it my full-time job.

HR: So, the rest of Extinct or Alive Season 2. You can’t tell us which animals you do find are not extinct, but can you tease the journeys we’ll go on? The animals you’re going in search for?

Galante: Oh, there are some exciting discoveries. There are multiple other finds that are just as monumental as Fern. I won’t say which they are, though. I don’t know of another TV show that has done so much groundbreaking science. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.

But throughout Extinct or Alive Season 2, we’ work with ex-head hunters to look for an animal affectionately known as the Dracula Monkey. After that, we’re in my home country of Zimbabwe, where I returned to the farm that I was kicked out of.

Shortly after that, I do work on a Cape Lion. I was very close to losing my life on that one.

After that, I’m in the Caribbean for a month, with tons of big sharks around. Then we’re in Madagascar, followed by Vietnam, heading into the world’s largest caves to look for the largest soft-shell turtle. We also look for the Rocky Mountain wolf. It’s a crazy season of huge and massive expeditions.

HR: I can’t wait to see the episodes! They sound so exciting.

Next. Forrest Galante talks the discovery of the Pondicherry during Shark Week. dark

Are you ready to delve into a new season of Extinct or Alive? Let us know what you hope to find in the upcoming episodes.

Extinct or Alive Season 2 premieres tonight at 9/8c on Animal Planet.