Famed zookeeper and conservationist Jack Hanna has been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and will no longer participate in public appearances, his family says in a statement Wednesday.
Hanna, 74, served as director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from 1978 to 1992. After his tenure, he became director emeritus and continued to advocate for animals as a spokesperson. Through his talk-show appearances and children’s television show, Hanna largely is credited with raising the national profile of both the zoo and global conservation efforts.
“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,” Hanna's children say in the statement.
“Dad loves the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds and has great appreciation for the hundreds of employees and volunteers who work extremely hard each day to care for the animals and ensure an incredible experience for the families who visit,” the family continues. “We share his dedication to the central Ohio community and will continue to support the Columbus Zoo and conservation efforts around the world.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine provided a statement about Hanna’s importance to Ohio.
“Over the years, Fran and I have had the opportunity to take our kids and grandkids to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds. When we were there with Jack, we were so fortunate to experience his passion for animals and the natural world,” DeWine says. “Along with our fellow Ohioans, we wish Jack, Suzi, and their daughters our best as they navigate the challenges of this disease and will be keeping them in our prayers.”
Hanna’s family notes that the animal expert’s health has deteriorated quickly, but his humor remains in a good state.
“Yes, he still wears his khakis at home,” the family says.
Below, watch one of Hanna’s many appearances on late-night television, this time on The Late Late Show with James Corden.