Many of us learned more about wildlife from Jack Hanna. Over the years, he’s popped up on our TVs to show us a species with which we weren’t all that familiar, or one we knew well, always with a passion for telling us more. Now, the beloved animal expert has stepped away from public life due to a dementia diagnosis that his family says is likely Alzheimer’s.
His three daughters released a letter sharing the news. In it, they said, “His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated. 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.”
The 74-year-old has devoted his much of his time to the Columbus Zoo, where he’s served as executive director, spokesman, and director emeritus. This is in addition to the various shows he’s hosted: Animal Adventures, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown. He’s also made many appearances on Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, Larry King Live, and plenty of other talk shows.
His family says his goal has always been to encourage conservation.
Their letter says, “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. 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’s always said, ‘You have to touch the heart to touch 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.”
They also spoke of his work at the zoo, in which he advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the greater community with the animals. With his television series, they said he tried to bring awareness to the importance of global conservation and the constant pressures on the natural environment.
Despite not being able to work in the same way, his daughters told fans that he still has his sense of humor and continues to wear khakis around the house. They also said their mother, Suzi – Jack’s wife of 53 years – remains steadfastly beside him.
To keep everyone safe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the family is asking for privacy.Whizzco