Jack Hanna, zoological director who is famous for appearing in live talk TV talk shows, has been diagnosed with dementia, his family said Wednesday.
Doctors believe it is Alzheimer’s disease, the family said in a statement.
“His condition has developed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have expected,” his daughters said.
“Unfortunately, Dad is no longer able to participate in the public life that he used to, where people all over the world saw, learned and laughed with him,” they said.
Hanna, 74, known as Jungle Jack, was the director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, where he is still director emeritus.
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 borillas in 1983.
He also had his own TV shows, Jack Hannas Animal Adventures, Jack Hannas Into the Wild and Jack Hannas Animal Adventures.
Hanna, who always performed in khakis, regarded the animals as ambassadors for them in nature.
He was hired as the director of Columbus Zoo in 1978 and retired last year. The zoo has credited him for transforming it from an “aging collection of pens and buildings” to what it is today. The zoo is often listed as one of the best in the United States
Zoo said it was sad to hear about the diagnosis and asked fans to join it by sending support messages to the family.
His daughters, Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie, wrote that their father believed that people who could see animals led them to be more engaged in conservation efforts in the wild.
“He has always said, ‘You must touch the heart to learn the mind,'” they wrote.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he, along with the state, sent the best wishes to the family and kept them in their prayers.
Hannah’s daughters said that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they were asking for privacy, which they called ironic given their father’s love of interacting with humans.
“While father’s health is rapidly deteriorating, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through,” his daughters wrote. “And yes – he still wears his khakis at home.”