Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna is stepping away from public life after he was diagnosed with dementia.
The 74-year-olds’s family confirmed on Wednesday, April 7, that Hanna is believed to have Alzheimer’s disease, which progressed quickly over the last few months.
"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,” his three daughters explained.
"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 conversations," the statement from the family read.
"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 Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been a major part of our lives since we moved to Central Ohio as young girls in 1978," the statement explained. "From day one, Dad advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals."
"While Dad's 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 continued.
"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."
Fans immediately responded to share well wishes. "I am so very sorry to hear this. He has given us so much joy over the years with his infectious enthusiasm & ability to educate with a loving down to earth nature. I hope his days are filled with love & peace & understands how special he is to so many," one fan commented.
"I'm so sorry to hear this, I really enjoyed watching his appearances on the late night shows! I truly admired him & he made me laugh! My sympathy goes out to your family," another wrote.
A third said, "Oh my goodness, I am so sad to hear this. I will keep y'all in my heart and prayers and know that he did our world a great service. I have watched him for many years and have enjoyed EVERY moment of it. Bless everyone connected with Jungle Jack."
Hanna was the director of Columbus Zoo from 1978-1992 and still acted as their spokesperson before he retired in 2020. He is also known for live animal demonstrations on TV, which included appearing with James Corden, David Letterman and Johnny Carson in his signature khakis.
He hosted Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures from 1993-2003 as well as Jack Hanna's Into the Wild and Jack Hanna's Wild Countdown from 2007 until last year.