Jack Hanna to Retire After Diagnosis

Wildlife expert and conservation advocate has dementia, family says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2021 5:35 PM CDT
Jack Hanna to Retire After Diagnosis
Jack Hanna and actress Betty White attend the grand opening of the Heart of Africa exhibit at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium in Powell, Ohio, in 2014.   (Jonathan Quilter/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

Jack Hanna—a wildlife expert, conservation advocate, and TV personality—is stepping out of public view. "Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer's disease," his daughters posted on Twitter. His condition has deteriorated quickly in the past few months, the statement said, and Hanna is "no longer able to participate in public life as he used to, where people all over the world watched, learned and laughed alongside him." Hanna, 74, hosted TV shows such as Animal Adventures, Into the Wild and Wild Countdown, CNN reports. He also made regular appearances over the years on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman and Today, bringing animals with him.

Hanna retired at the end of 2020 from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, where he'd served 42 years as director and director emeritus, per WBNS. He was credited with revitalizing the zoo and bolstering Columbus' conservation efforts. Hanna grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he kept exotic animals on a spot on his father's land called Hanna's Ark, per the Columbus Dispatch. "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," the letter said. Hanna's daughters wrote that their father's sense of humor "continues to shine through" and that he "still wears his khakis at home." (Read more dementia stories.)

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