“Extinct or Alive” Host Forrest Galante

Forrest Galante presented at Laguna’s TEDx and shared his mission to inspire and educate people about animals and adventures.


Forrest Galante

Lancelot Mabon, Writer

Why did you start what you are doing?

I grew up in Zimbabwe, and I had always had wildlife all around me and so when I was about 14 and I wanted to keep working with animals even though I wasn’t in Africa anymore.

I went to a good college, UCSB, and studied biology. When I got done with that, I just wanted to be in the field.

I wanted to be out in the bush like I was when I was a little kid because that is where all my excitement was.

Then I figured out how to make that as my career and I just turned that into doing biology jobs in the field and turned that into doing biology for television and going on doing extinct species.

How was it to grow up in Zimbabwe?

The country that I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore, and what I mean by that is when I grew up there, it was very, very peaceful, nobody ever locked their doors. It was very friendly and very wild. But in 2000 and 2001, there was a political uprising and things got very violent and dangerous. There was racism and things that hadn’t been there when I was a kid.

When I was young, it was perfect. I grew up on a big farm, we had a dam on the farm, we had motorbikes and horses and all the fun things a farm kid has but, by the time I left, it was pretty dangerous and violent.

How did you go about finding these thought to be extinct animals?

I was working in biology, and I was starting to garner a name for myself in high-risk biology. I was the guy that people would call in the state of California if someone needed some rattlesnake milk venom or to put collars on mountain lions.

I started doing anything that was kinda high risk and then people started contacting me. These little news stories went viral, and then I was like, oh, if these stories of me doing work with everyday animals are popular, imagine how much people would pay attention to really, really critically endangered presumed extinct animals, and it was what we started to put together.

The first-ever expedition I did was for the most iconic extinct species that people still think is out there called the Tasmanian tiger.

I spent months doing that, years of research and, of course, I didn’t find it. So it wasn’t 11 expeditions later that I found my first evidence for my first thought to believe that the extinct Zanzibar Leopard that you saw at your school existed.

How did you feel when you first found a thought to be an extinct animal?

Oh my god, it’s hard to explain. The culmination of a man’s entire career in a single one-second moment, a single 15-second video clip is pretty hard to explain.

I mean, even today, I get goosebumps talking about it because I get so excited, but it was the proudest, most-excited happiest moment of my entire life.