Earlier this month, the Internet erupted with whispers about the potential reemergence of the Tasmanian tiger, an animal believed to have gone extinct in 1936. The excitement was spurred by the Australian government’s recent release of a list of alleged Tasmanian tiger sightings from the past three years.
For Forrest Galante, this is an animal he has been thinking about for years. The biologist turned adventurer is the star of Animal Planet’s Extinct or Alive, a nature show that seeks out animals that science has proclaimed extinct.
“I spent three months in the Australian bush looking for it, I have faith in that animal’s existence,” Galante tells PEOPLE. And even though those three months didn’t turn up a Tasmanian Tiger, also known as a thylacine, he hasn’t “given up hope yet” that the animal is out there.
Galante’s opinion is one to be trusted, he and the Extinct or Alive crew have already uncovered species that the world literally left for dead, including the rediscovery of the Fernandina Giant Tortoise.
“We find one of these animals and it’s earth-shattering. It rewrites natural history,” Galante says adding that he sees each of Extinct or Alive‘s rediscoveries as an “accomplishment for the world of conservation.”
“The fact that these animals are able to hang on by a thread when the whole world has given up on them — I am getting goosebumps,” he says of the feeling he gets holding an animal in his hands that the world thought was extinct.
Galante, the son of safari owners, has spent his whole life around wildlife and, after becoming a biologist, decided to share his excitement about his work through media. This is how Extinct or Alive was born.
The show follows Galante through wild and remote locations in search of animals that are thought to be extinct. The job is anything but guess work. Each episode consists of years of research, months of planning and weeks of field works. Galante says he receives at least 100 messages a week from fans and fellow animal lovers with tips, sightings and requests to search for certain animals, Big Foot included. And while Galante doesn’t seek out cryptids like Big Foot, he does read and log every message he gets, just in case any can bring him a step closer to uncovering an animal the world has forgotten.
Even after all this work and preparation, there are still plenty of trips when all the effort doesn’t lead to a rediscovery, but Galante doesn’t consider these adventures to be failures.
“We make a very family friendly show. We don’t always find the animal, but we do find amazing habitats and other amazing species,” he says. “People can enjoy the adventure and all the beautiful creatures along the way.”
Viewers can also enjoy missing out on the unique pains Galante and his team endure while out in the field searching for extinct animals. According to Galante, while working on the show, he has gotten used to getting 45 bee stings a day, been bitten by a shark, worked in 122 degree weather near an active volcano, spent days in darkness and gone into anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting.
To him it is all worth it, but he understands if there are people at home who prefer to assist in conservation in a different way.
“Conservation starts at home. Wildlife is all around us,” Galante says. To those who are inspired by what he does, but aren’t looking for a shark bite, he advises joining a conservation group in your area, volunteering at a local rescue or donating to nonprofits that help protect our planet and its animals.
“You don’t need to travel around the planet. You can do it on your Saturday afternoon at home.”
Extinct or Alive returns to Animal Planet with new episodes on October 23 at 9 p.m.