Jack Hanna, 74, gained fame nationally as the director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and through many TV appearances.
Beloved wildlife and animal expert, zoologist Jack Hanna, is stepping away from public life after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, his family revealed. Hanna, 74, who became famous nationally as the director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, was known as "Jungle Jack."
He was the director of the Columbus Zoo from 1978 to 1992, and officially retired from his other duties in late 2020. "His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated," Hanna's daughters, Kathaleen, Suzanne, and Julie, shared in a letter, as per People. "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 added.
"The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been a major part of our lives since we moved to Central Ohio as young girls in 1978," his daughters wrote in their statement. "From day one, Dad advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals. After he left his active management role as Executive Director in 1992, he continued to be a spokesperson for the zoo until his retirement last year."
Hanna's fame skyrocketed when he was seen on late-night and daytime TV, via The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman, and Today. He also had his own shows Animal Adventures, Into the Wild, and Wild Countdown.
The statement from his daughters also paid tribute to his wife Suzi Egli, who "has been by his side for 53 years in every corner of the world." His daughters also added that while his "health has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through. And yes - he still wears his khakis at home," the statement read. "To keep everyone safe in light of COVID-19 restrictions, we are asking for privacy, which is ironic given Dad's love of interacting with people. We are grateful that the many hearts he's touched over the years are with him during this journey, which gives us strength," said his daughters, according to CNN.
His continuous work gained him the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award in 2018. The loving statement from his family honors his many accomplishments as well as his humane spirit.
"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," Hanna's daughters wrote in their letter, according to People. "He has 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."
They continued, "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."
The family also revealed that his health isn't the only one they are worried about. His daughter, Julie, has reportedly had "life-long continued challenges" because of childhood leukemia and is recovering from major surgery.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Rich Polk