An Interview with Forrest Galante – The man that re-discovered the extinct Zanzibar Leopard
Forrest Galante is the host of Animal Planet’s new show Extinct or Alive and has recently made history books by discovering a creature that was thought to be extinct. @allosauroid and myself have been lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions about his adventures looking for extinct species and his thoughts on the Zanzibar Leopard itself.
Since this is the subject of my own blog, I just have to ask: Do you believe some Cryptozoological animals are out there? If so, which?
I mean, crypto is not my area of study. I am a biologist and focus on known scientific animals. I absolutely believe in the Thylacine as that was a known creature that existed in recent times. I do believe it could still be out there in super small sub populations. I’m not much one for monsters and scaries, I am more into the wildlife.
Does anything scare you on an investigation?
The thought of failure and concern for the remaining wildlife the area. My biggest fear is uncovering an extinct species just to have it not protected or worse, to have something happen to it in the after math. The reason I do what I do is to protect the areas and the wildlife. the thing that scares me the most is the idea that soon, unless we make an effort, there will be a lot more extinct animals.
How do you decide which creatures/animals you’ll investigate?
It’s based on viability. If the animal has gone extinct in recent years and has sufficient habitat, sightings reported, lack of research etc then I put it on my list and research it myself. Upon further digging, if I think a viable population could still be out there I go and search for it in the field.
How long do you spend on an investigation?
Depends on the clues, the budget, the area etc. It’s really all over the map. On average, I’d say 2 weeks in the field.
What kind of precautions do you take? Do you have a medic with you on your investigations or do you just bring along a first aid kit?
None really. I don’t find the outdoors to be too dangerous or scary. I am a trained wilderness medic and EMT and have had to administer a few of my own stitches in the field, but in general I just go and don’t worry much about that. When I’m filming the show, there are plenty other people around if anything happens, but when I go on my own missions, I just go solo with a small first aid kit.
Onto the main subject we’re all very curious about, the Zanzibar leopard:
What drew you to investigate the Zanzibar leopard in particular?
Mostly the number of reported sightings. Everywhere you turn people report having seen one and witch doctors keeping them. Couple that with the fact that there is a lot of wildlife left in Zanzibar (that act as prey animals) and that its only been declared extinct for 25 years and you have the makings for what potentially could (and is) a mislabeled status.
How can the average person assist in protecting these extremely rare or re-discovered species?
Well, that’s a good question. Its not really something that happens frequently. But, once an animal is rediscovered helping spread the message and pressuring people/governments/parks etc to protect it will be the biggest help. Education is key.
What was your honest expectation for its survival?
high– think about it this way, its survived 25 years undetected, reproducing and living. As long as the national park stays in place and poaching/hunting is limited (as it is in Zanzibar) there is no reason the animal could not sustain and population eventually (slowly) increase.
Are there other big cats you’re interested in searching for?
Ohh yeah… You will have to tune in Sunday nights to find out!
Thank you so much, Forrest, for answering our questions!