From catching venomous snakes as a child to searching the wild for animals thought to be extinct, Animal Planet star Forrest Galante has a story (or ten) to tell.
Q: Hi Forrest! Tell us about yourself and how you got into wildlife adventuring?
I grew up in the Southern African Bush of Zimbabwe Africa. When I wasn't on safari with my family, which is what they did, I was living on a farm so I’ve been surrounded by wildlife my entire life. In fact, I’ve been involved with wildlife from a very young age when I used to catch and sneak venomous snakes into the house without my parents knowing. Now I do it professionally!
Q: What is wildlife adventuring? How does it differ from people just encountering wild animals?
I don't know that there is a specific difference for wildlife adventuring. I'm a scientist, a wildlife biologist by trade, and I've taken that biology to an extreme level where it's an adventure to do the type of surveys and studies that I do on an ongoing basis. A biologist may conduct a survey in one location for a short amount of time, but as a wildlife adventurer, I conduct lots of surveys in extremely remote places throughout the world. Oftentimes no other people have ever been there, let alone a western academic.
Q: Your Animal Planet TV show Extinct or Alive is fun and crazy. How did you come up with the show idea and what's the craziest experience you've had while filming the show?
You’re right, Extinct or Alive is fun and it’s crazy. The idea came when a producer approached me and said, "Hey, you're a crazy wildlife biologist and I love the stuff you do, I have this idea for tracking down supposedly extinct animals, do you think any of them could still be alive?" I turned to him and said, "As a matter of fact I know that some of these ostensibly extinct animals are still alive because my grandfather discovered a coelacanth that had been thought to have been extinct for 66 million years. If he can find that, I'm certain that we can find some of these other not-really-extinct animals." That's how the show came about.
The craziest experience I've had, well, it’s a long list, from climbing treetops in the Madagascan jungle canopy to chasing giant lemurs to repelling down thousand foot cliffs to seeing the grind at Wale Slaughter in the Faroe Islands. There have been a lot of ups and downs, high and low moments! If have to pick just one, though, the craziest experience was actually uncovering evidence of the Zanzibar leopard, a large 100 pound cat believed to be extinct for over a century. That was the pinnacle of my career, and was by far the craziest and best experience.
Q: You are known as the perfect combination of Steve Irwin, Bear Grylls and Jacques Cousteau. Can you tell us what inspires you about each of these three adventurers?
I think the names speak for themselves. Steve Irwin is my original hero, the king of wildlife media, the man who entertained us all by showing how incredible wildlife can be. He is just a legend.
Bear Grylls and his survival knowledge, his showmanship, his expertise in the outdoors and getting through tough situations is unparalleled and he's just the most entertaining guy that's been on television in a long time.
Jacques Cousteau, what a hero of underwater adventure. His discoveries beneath the surface are unparalleled, he is an incredible adventurer, incredible seaman, ocean explorer, a six-time world record holding freediver, spear fisherman, hundred-ton ship captain, and dive master.
I feel like all of my accomplishments just pale in comparison to anything Jacques Cousteau ever did. These are three truly inspirational men, and to be considered a combination of those three is tremendously flattering.
Q: What pets do you have? We expect that they're probably quite exotic and possibly numerous too.
Hang on to your hat! My wife calculated that I have 91 pets, though that includes our pond which has over 20 turtles. We also have a miniature horse, a miniature donkey, a miniature pig who is a rescue from Hurricane Katrina, a giant cicada, various tortoises, peacocks, guinea fowl, turkeys, chickens, giant Flemish rabbits, dogs and snakes. I have two snakes that I'm looking at right now on my computer desk. Oh! And a bunch of hermit crabs too.
It's a long list and they're almost all rescues, something that we love to do. We also love taking care of them too.
Q: If you could travel anywhere on the planet for your next adventure, where would you head?
The number one place on my bucket list right now is the Pantanal. It's in the Brazilian Amazon and is the largest wetland in South America. Clear water, giant caimans, fresh water turtles and huge anacondas, not to mention jaguars and all the crazy South American fauna. I've been to South America before but I've never made it to the Pantanal, so that is top of my list at the moment.
Q: When you're not wrestling dangerous and exotic creatures, what's your day job?
This is it! My day job is planning for the wrestling of dangerous and exotic creatures. I spent tons of time doing research, investigating stories of extinct creatures, looking at these critically endangered animals, and time-sensitive situations, and then I work towards funding, financing, filming and exploring them all. My day job when I'm not in the bush is planning how to get back into the bush.
Q: What’s your favorite Nite Ize product and why?
Oh man, this is such an easy one for me. It's the INOVA® T10R™. It is the greatest flashlight on earth. I mean it’s unbelievable how bright it is and how well it works. Mine's been underwater, through torrential downpours, dropped in the mud, dropped off cliffs, and it keeps going. It's absolutely bulletproof and that intense spotlight beam is the most essential tool that I have for spotting wildlife at night. If I walked through the jungle at night looking for things up in the canopy without that INOVA T10R, I would be unable to spot half the animals that I’ve identified in the last year.
People love the flashlight, too. Thanks to your team at Nite Ize, I've been able to share it with three or four different crew members and they all say it's now one of their most valued possessions. I cannot recommend that flashlight enough!
After the T10R, Gear Ties® are a huge win too. Heck, Gear Ties hold my life together. From the cable that is currently attached to my iPhone with a microphone on it, to cords all around my house, to keeping spear guns together on my boat, to strapping things to the struts of helicopters, I use Gear Ties for everything. They are in every corner of my life!
Q: What else is happening in your world, Forrest?
My passions are deep and intense. I'm an avid rugby player, love the game and coach youth rugby. I do a lot of freediving and spearfishing. I harvest all of my own edible proteins sustainably from the ocean and do a ton of mushroom foraging too.
And I use Nite Ize products for all of it! Whether it is the INOVA flashlight or the headlamps or the Gear Ties to hold my dive gear together or the GearLine®, all of it is super valuable to me and I'm so grateful to have your support and innovations. Thank you guys!
Q: Great stuff, really fun to talk with you. How can people keep up with your adventures and find you on social media?
You can find me as @Forrest.Galante on Instagram, @ForrestGalante on Facebook and @ForrestGalante on Twitter. I do have a YouTube channel. It's mostly diving and spearfishing related, but I’m much more active on the other three channels.
And then there’s the TV show. Check out Extinct or Alive on Animal Planet. It's available on Animal Planet Go or Amazon at any time. It's a great show, it's family friendly, it's fun, it's an adventure show and it inspires hope and conservation. Kids love it, adults love it. If you're into wildlife, if you're into adventure, please check it out!