Animal expert “Jungle” Jack Hanna is suffering from dementia believed to be Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer introduce animals to the public, as he has been doing for nearly four decades, his family announced Wednesday.
“Doctors have determined that our father, Jack Hanna, has dementia, which is now believed to be Alzheimer’s,” his three adult daughters – Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie – said in a statement. “His condition has progressed much faster in recent months than any of us could have foreseen. Sadly, Daddy can’t participate in public life like he used to, where people around the world watched, learned and laughed with him.
The women explained that their father, best known for appearing on comedian David Letterman’s TV shows, has always believed in the importance of connecting people and wildlife. Hanna thought this prompted them to commit to conservation.
‘He always said,’ You must touch the heart to teach the mind, ‘they said in the statement. “Even though Dad can’t travel and work the same way anymore, we know his infectious enthusiasm has touched many hearts and will remain his legacy.”
They noted that their mother, Suzi, remains by Hanna’s side after 53 years of marriage.
Professionally, the 74-year-old retired from his longtime role as a spokesperson for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio last year. According to the biography on his website, Hanna took over as director of that facility in 1978, after working at a Florida zoo.
“When I first started at the Columbus Zoo, attendance was low and animal habitats were outdated,” he wrote. “My top priority was to increase attendance by offering educational and entertaining events.”
As part of the entertainment goal, he appeared on David Letterman’s late night show in 1985. The two “hit it off.” From then on, Hanna and his animals were regular guests who appeared Late Night With David Letterman and his successor, Late show with David Letterman, a combination of more than 90 times, with Hanna playing the comic straight man.
Hanna has appeared on many other TV shows over the years, such as Good morning America and the Ellen DeGeneres ShowHe’s also had several shows of his own, including Animal Adventures Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown and winning an Emmy during the day Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, which last released a new episode in September, according to IMDb.
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