“This is big for the scientific community,” says Galante, 31, an adventurer and biologist who’s appeared on “Naked and Afraid” and “Shark Week.” “Showing that a species is still hanging on by a thread against all odds is a huge thing. I think it inspires wildlife workers to put their heads down and work really hard.
“More than that, it inspires a generation of future conservationists.”
The Dracula monkey, also called Miller’s Grizzled Langur, was last spotted in 2011 in Borneo and was thought to possibly be extinct until it was spotted by Galante on “Extinct or Alive.” The series follows Galante as he journeys to remote corners of the world (often jungles) searching for rare species.
Galante made headlines earlier this year when he discovered the first Fernandina Giant Tortoise in over 100 years in the Galapagos Islands. That discovery was featured on the Oct. 23 “Extinct or Alive” series premiere.
Emboldened by his success, and hoping to find the Dracula monkey, Galante traveled to Borneo, spending last April and May in search of the animal, which has a dark face and a white ring of fur around its neck, reminiscent of Dracula’s cape.
There was fear it was extinct since much of its forest habitat was transformed into palm oil plantations.
“What we were trying to do with this expedition was keep it off of that [extinct species] list,” says Galante. “Once a species is declared extinct, it loses all funding. The Miller’s Grizzled Langur is relatively unknown to the public. At one point in time it was widespread and then it completely disappeared. My friend [primatologist Stephanie Spehar] and her research group uncovered some images of it in 2011 and that was the last anybody had seen of it. So the fact that it had already disappeared and then briefly resurfaced gave me hope it could still be out there.”
Galante says he and his team were engulfed by swarming bees during their time in Borneo. “That was brutal. We were averaging 45 bee stings per person per day,” he says. “Thankfully, none of us were allergic to bees, but it doesn’t make it any more fun.”
By setting up cameras in the forest, Galante was able to capture footage of the Dracula monkey.
“We were a little downtrodden by then because it was such harsh conditions,” he says. “I was expecting disappointment as one does when checking a lottery ticket, which is basically what our trail cameras are. And then seeing it was just so fantastic.
“It was just such a big win all around — so much bigger than the individual animal and even the species.”
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