Zookeeper Jack Hanna has dementia, his family say

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Jack Hanna, the affable zookeeper and television set who has brought an array of exotic animals to Americans’ living rooms, from an Andean condor to a wolverine, suffers from dementia and will retire from public life, said his family.

In one letter shared Wednesday on social networks, the family of Mr Hanna, 74, said he developed what is believed to be Alzheimer’s disease and his condition has deteriorated rapidly over the past few months.

“Unfortunately, Dad is no longer able to participate in public life like he used to do, where people all over the world watched, learned and laughed alongside him,” Mr. Hanna’s three daughters said in the letter. .

Last year, the Ohio Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced that Mr. Hanna would step down from his leadership role after 42 years as director and director emeritus.

Beyond the Zoo, Jungle Jack Hanna, as he’s known, has become a mainstay of television, from hosting his own Emmy-winning daytime series to his regular appearances on shows like “The Late Show.” With David Letterman and Good Morning America. “

In his khaki clothes and leather cap, Mr. Hanna was accompanied on the shows by a cast of creatures, from curious to hugs, to whom he gave the upper hand. Plenty of dating left the show’s hosts disgusted, especially Mr. Letterman, who according to The Columbus Dispatch had booked Mr. Hanna more than 100 times on his show in 30 years.

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The set of animals appearing with Mr. Hanna on the Mr. Letterman show included a camel, penguins, electric eels, a leopard and a cobra.

“As usual, in preparation for his visit tonight, I’m using a tick shampoo,” Mr. Letterman joked, introducing Mr. Hanna on his show in September 1998.

Mr. Hanna’s first appearance on the Mr. Letterman show dates back to 1985, according to The Dispatch. They continued to develop a breakdown with each other, with Mr. Hanna often exchanging jokes with the late-night TV legend and throwing wild animals across Mr. Letterman’s desk.

“He has spent his life connecting people and wildlife because he has always believed that it was essential for people to see and experience animals to involve them in more effective conservation efforts,” said M’s daughters. Hanna. “He always said, ‘You have to touch the heart to teach the spirit.’”

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Mr Hanna’s family announcement on Wednesday sparked a wave of tributes.

Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said on twitter that he and his wife, Fran, were saddened to learn of Mr. Hanna’s diagnosis.

“Over the years, Fran and I have had the opportunity to take our children and grandchildren to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and to The Wilds,” Mr. DeWine wrote. “When we were there with Jack, we got to experience his passion for animals and the natural world.”

The Alzheimer’s Association congratulated Mr. Hanna’s family for Twitter for its disclosure.

“We are grateful to Jack Hanna and his family for courageously sharing his diagnosis of dementia, letting other families facing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias know that they are not alone,” said association.

Mr Hanna’s first job, at age 11, was to work for a veterinarian in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, where he developed his love and respect for animals, according to a bio on his website. He opened a pet store in Knoxville with his wife, Suzi, and became manager of a small zoo in Sanford, Florida in 1973, according to his biography.

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It was early on that Mr. Hanna also learned of the dangers that wild animals can pose to humans.

In the early 1970s, a 3-year-old boy lost an arm when he was mutilated by a lion on Mr. Hanna’s property in Tennessee, according to The Dispatch.

“It’s with me every day,” Hanna told the newspaper in a video released in 2018.

Mr. Hanna became director of the Columbus Zoo in 1978 and director emeritus in 1992. He has written 15 books, according to the zoo, which named an immersive exhibit after Mr. Hanna and a fund after Mr. Hanna and his wife.

Mr Hanna’s family said he has engaged with millions of people through his television and media appearances over the years.

“This has allowed her to bring an unprecedented level of awareness of the importance of global conservation given the relentless pressures on the natural environment,” her family said.

Mr. Hanna’s daughters said their dad hasn’t lost his sense of humor and his style hasn’t changed.

“And yes,” they said, “he always wears his khakis at home.”

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