On Wednesday, the family of celebrity zookeeper and animal TV show host Jack Hanna revealed that he has been diagnosed with dementia and will now be retiring from public life. His family also added that it’s believed he now has Alzheimer’s disease that has quickly progressed in the last few months.
74-year-old Jack Hanna was director of the Columbus Zoo from 1978 to 1992 and still serves as its director emeritus.
Jack Hanna’s daughters reveal the sad news of Jack Hanna retirement on Twitter
Hanna’s daughters — Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie — took to his twitter account to reveal the news of his dementia. They posted a letter along with two family pictures.
“A passion for wildlife conservation and education has been at the core of who our dad is and everything he has accomplished with the help of so many,” the Hannas wrote. “He spent his life connecting people and wildlife because he has always believed that having people see and experience animals is key to engaging them in more impactful conservation efforts.
“He always said, ‘You have to touch the heart to teach the mind.’ Even though Dad is no longer able to travel and work in the same way, we know that his infectious enthusiasm has touched many hearts and will continue to be his legacy.”
“The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been a major part of our lives since we moved to Central Ohio as young girls in 1978. From day one, Dad advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals. After he left his active management role as Executive Director in 1992, he continued to be a spokesperson for the zoo until his retirement last year.”
The daughters said that Hanna’s wife is recovering from “major surgery” as a result of “life-long challenges from her childhood leukemia.” They ended the letter by asking everyone to stay safe and to follow the COVID-19 restrictions.
“While Dad’s health has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through. And yes – he still wears his khakis at home.”
Jack Hanna is well-known for his live animal demonstrations on talk shows hosted by Johnny Carson, David Letterman and James Corden, increasing the profile of the Columbus Zoo and leading to massive attendance increases over the years.
Jack served as both director and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for 42 years. He retired at the end of December.