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Former Columbus Zoo director, Jack Hanna, has been diagnosed with dementia. Doctors believe it could possibly be Alzheimer’s. Hanna’s family first announced this diagnosis on their Twitter page on April 6, 2021. They shared family pictures with a letter stating the former zookeeper’s health condition.
Jack Bushnell Hanna — more commonly known as Jungle Jack — was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on Jan. 2, 1947. He served as the director of the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo from 1978 to 1992. After which he became a well-known animal expert on television.
Growing up on a farm in Tennessee his love for animals grew at an early age. By the age of 11, he volunteered to work for his family’s veterinarian.
After graduating high school, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Muskingum College — located in New Concord, Ohio. He then began working as the director of the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford — from 1973 to 1975.
His hard work at the Columbus Zoo really paid off. He transformed the small run-down facility into a nationally acclaimed zoological park called Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
By offering numerous educational programs and hosting events that provided entertainment Hanna was able to raise the zoo’s attendance. He further raised funds by networking with local business leaders to help develop larger, more natural habitats for the animal’s enclosures.
In 1983, he accepted an invitation from “Good Morning America” to increase awareness of the zoo after a gorilla gave birth to twins. This appearance led to him receiving several other TV opportunities including reoccurring visits on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “Larry King Live” shows.
From there he worked as a wildlife correspondent for CNN and Fox News. His entertaining, easy-going character really drew in people’s attention to the zoo’s animals. In 1992, he became the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo. This gave Hanna the ability to meet his media obligations.
Sadly enough he now has to end his exciting career to focus on his health issues. He retired at the age of 74.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Britannica: Jack Hanna
NBC 4: Jack Hanna to withdraw from public life after dementia diagnosis
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Becker1999’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License