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‘Extinct or Alive’ returns for Season 2 with Forrest Galante

Eureka moment Forrest Galante with the Fernandina Island tortoise   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Is there a creature 32-year-old American Forrest Galante would like to rediscover? “It would definitely be the thylacine – that is the holy grail — but there is no one animal that is better than the other,” says the host of Extinct or Alive.

The story is that the last-known thylacine — a carnivorous marsupial commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger and native to Australia — suffered a lonely death when it was inadvertently locked out of its den at the Hobart zoo during a cold night in 1936.

The thylacine is one among many of the species like the dodos and giant sloths that have been obliterated over thousands of years. And yet, wildlife biologists like Galante have spent a lifetime focussing on animals on the brink of extinction and hoping that those believed to have been lost forever may still be rediscovered.

‘Extinct or Alive’ returns for Season 2 with Forrest Galante

In the 10 episodes that make Season 2, Galante travels to Madagascar in search of the pygmy hippo, the remote jungles of Colombia for the Rio Apaporis caiman, and to Vietnam in search of the ‘Asian unicorn’, among others. “Filming each episode on average takes about a month, including travel and prep. A full season is about a year of work,” he says via email, adding, “The challenges are endless — from logistics to equipment — not to mention we are looking for an animal that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Galante’s love for creatures stemmed from his extraordinary childhood in Zimbabwe. Born in California, USA, he was raised on a farm in one of Africa’s most prosperous countries where his mother was one of the continent’s first female safari guides. It was a childhood spent barefoot, catching snakes, living amidst the wonder of the Victoria Falls and the gushing Zambezi river teeming with wildlife. At 14, Galante became the youngest person to lead an international canoe safari down the river. But in a country where whites owned most of the land and blacks still remained largely dispossessed, trouble was just around the bend. In 2001, in a final upheaval, the Galantes like many others, had their farm seized and had to flee Zimbabwe overnight. They returned to live in Santa Barbara on the Californian coast.

In less than a decade, Galante had a degree with specialisations in marine biology and herpetology, and sharpened the skills he had learnt as a child. He spear-fished off the local coast and earned scuba-diving certifications. In 2014, he featured in Discovery’s Naked and Afraid — where participants are stripped to the bare minimum — and scored one of the highest PSRs (primate survival rating) ever on the show. It helped Galante set off on another journey in Extinct or Alive in 2018.

In Season 1, Galante found trail footage of a Zanzibar leopard and, in 2019, followed the journey of naturalist Charles Darwin to the remote, rugged Galapagos Islands to discover a female Fernandina Island tortoise, a species that had not been sighted for over a century.

The Fernandina Island tortoise

The Fernandina Island tortoise   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Every hour of Extinct or Alive is years of research. Once we’ve done enough research and believe the animal is there, we then go out on the expedition. Sometimes, it requires genetic testing but often a piece of video or photographic evidence is enough as many of them are incredibly unique,” says Galante.

Galante travels with a crew that has a core group of six. “They are tough and are literally my best friends,” he says.

He hopes his findings will inspire others to look for fauna the world has given up on. It is one of the focus areas of the Santa Barbara Stingrays, a rugby team of whom Galante is head coach.

“Rugby is my other passion,” says Galante, “We also do a lot of team activities outside of training such as beach cleanups and trail runs. I think one of the reasons we are successful is because of the team building element I apply to it, which I learned from Extinct or Alive.”

Extinct or Alive Season 2 will air every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 pm on Animal Planet.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 1:17:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/extinct-or-alive-returns-for-season-2-with-forrest-galante/article33161242.ece

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