If Forrest Galante looks at ease trekking through the wilderness in the Animal Planet docuseries Mysterious Creatures, it may be because his grandfather was an adventurer and his mother was a bush pilot.
As the TV host told the Calgary Journal in March 2020, those two family members were role models in his life as he spent his childhood coming face-to-face with wildlife in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe was an incredibly wonderful place to grow up,” he said. “My family owned safari businesses and my mother was one of Zimbabwe’s first female bush pilots and first female safari guides. My granddad was a great outdoorsman, adventurer, explorer, and those two people are big role models in my life. They have certainly shaped my upbringing and I think inadvertently shaped my future.”
But recent reports have called Forrest and his family’s achievements into question …
Forrest Galante says his grandfather helped prove the coelacanth wasn’t extinct, but proof is scarce online.
In a March 2016 interview, Forrest told The Tribune that his grandfather Gerald Summerfield was involved in proving that the coelacanth fish species was, in fact, not extinct.
Gerald “found a whole, fresh specimen in a fish market” in the Comoros, “and he knew it was something special,” Forrest said at the time.
The Naked and Afraid alum also described Gerald as “a fantastic adventurer as an Englishman who settled in Southern Africa … at a time when Africa was still unexplored.”
A post on The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database, however, questions that claim to fame, pointing out that online proof of Gerald’s purported discovery is hard to find. (A Google search of the terms “coelacanth” and “Gerald Summerfield” currently yields nine web results, almost all of which cite Forrest’s recollection as their source.)
Forrest says he rediscovered the Fernandina giant tortoise, but he may have overstated his role in the expedition.
Another one of Forrest’s claims to fame is better documented. National Geographic reports he was on the team that in February 2019 rediscovered a Fernandina giant tortoise (another species once believed to be extinct) in the Galápagos.
Forrest’s website says he “trekked over Fernandina Island and discovered a female Fernandina Island tortoise, a species that hadn’t been seen for 113 years and also was classified as extinct.”
But in a March 2020 article about the problem of “colonial science,” Undark quoted Washington Tapia-Aguilera — a biologist at the Galápagos Conservancy, the director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, and another member from that expedition — who said that it was Ecuadorian park ranger Jeffreys Málaga who tracked the tortoise and made the discovery. And the rest of the team saw the tortoise when Jeffreys called them over.
“Forrest and his team first are not scientists nor were they part of the scientific expedition,” Washington added. “They were part of a television show.”
Washington observed that Forrest acted unethically, but the biologist wasn’t concerned with taking credit for himself, telling Undark, “I don’t care because I’m a scientist who does not seek prominence but instead to contribute to the conservation of giant tortoises, so recognition for me is not important.”