Beloved animal expert Jack Hanna has dementia, steps away from public life

Beloved animal expert Jack Hanna has dementia, steps away from public life

Hanna, the 74-year-old director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, made frequent TV appearances with live animals.

Image: Jack Hanna

Wildlife advocate Jack Hanna poses for a portrait with a serval cub in New York on Oct. 12, 2015.Dan Hallman / Invision/AP fileApril 7, 2021, 7:30 PM MDTBy Phil Helsel

Jack Hanna, the zoo director famous for making TV talk show appearances with live animals, has been diagnosed with dementia, his family said Wednesday.

Doctors think it is Alzheimer’s disease, the family said in a statement.

“His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated,” his daughters said.

“Sadly, Dad 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,” they said.

Hanna, 74, known as Jungle Jack, was director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, where he remains director emeritus.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=NBCNews&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1379841146726219776&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Fnews%2Fus-news%2Fbeloved-animal-expert-jack-hanna-has-dementia-steps-away-public-n1263388&sessionId=a7d50d5c5ef5cc7394535836b2c95f190b593169&siteScreenName=NBCNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1ead0c7%3A1617660954974&width=550px

He was famous for bringing animals to TV hosts like David Letterman and others, and to “Good Morning America” — where he first appeared with twin baby gorillas in 1983.

He also had TV programs of his own, Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild and Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures.

Hanna, who always appeared in khakis, considered the animals to be ambassadors for those in the wild.

He was hired as director of the Columbus Zoo in 1978 and retired last year. The zoo has credited him with transforming it from an “aging collection of pens and buildings” into what it is today. The zoo is often listed as among the best in the U.S.

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