Wildlife advocate Jack Hanna, famous for decades of live animal demonstrations on television shows, has retired from public life at 74 after being diagnosed with dementia.
Hanna’s family announced on Wednesday that the beloved zookeeper is rapidly declining with what doctors believe to be Alzheimer’s disease and retired from his role as spokesperson for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium last year.
“His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated,” daughters Kathaleen, Suzanne, and Julie wrote. “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.”
Hanna served as the director of the Columbus Zoo from 1978 to 1992, where he “advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals.” He brought national attention to the cause as a wildlife correspondent appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and “Good Morning America” throughout the years.
“Dad engaged with millions of households through his media appearances and weekly television programs – including Animal Adventures, Into the Wild and Wild Countdown,” his daughters mentioned. “This allowed him to bring an unparalleled level of awareness to the importance of global conservation given the unrelenting pressures on the natural environment.”
They noted that Suzi, his wife of 53 years, remains steadfastly by his side, and “continues to be his rock,” as Hanna’s health has deteriorated quickly. Yet even in the face of a debilitating disease, his “great sense of humor continues to shine through.”
“We are grateful that the many hearts he’s touched over the years are with him during this journey, which gives us strength,” the letter concluded, cheekily tagging on that though Hanna has retired, he continues to wear his signature khaki uniform at home.