“Jungle” Jack Hanna is unquestionably the best known “Zoo Keeper” in the world. It is a position that he has held for almost 40 years. At the present time he still retains the title “Director Emeritus” of the Columbus Zoo. His television appearances and wildlife shows have made the Columbus Zoo known world-wide; he has continued his association with the organization for 34 years. At the time of his appointment in 1978, the Zoo was rundown and the grounds unkempt. Hanna initially gained a reputation as a “zealous”zoo director, often traveling around the zoo grounds after closing to personally pick up trash. He also realized the importance in elevating the profile of the zoo in order to get more public support and funding. Hanna’s knowledge and engaging personality proved to be very well suited to public relations for the zoo. He began by hosting a local television program, “Hanna’s Ark,” which aired on the local CBSaffiliate in Columbus. He also believed in bringing the zoo to the people with live animal demonstrations. His reputation as a zoo director was soon eclipsed by his reputation as an engaging performer. His outreach programs at the zoo reached increasingly larger numbers of people and his fame soon attracted a national audience.
Hanna’s live animal demonstrations soon became a staple on Good Morning America and David Letterman’s talk show. This new incarnation brought national attention to the Columbus Zoo and made Hanna a sought after expert and performer (He was named “one of the 50 Most Beautiful People” by People Magazine). During these appearances his knowledge and passion for all endangered animals across the globe became evident. To say he cares deeply is an understatement. Over the course of Hanna’s tenure as director, the zoo made the transition from cage-like enclosures to habitat environments and established his reputation as an innovator in the concept of “natural” environments for the animals. a trend which is worldwide in its scope today.
Hanna published his autobiography, Monkeys on the Interstate in 1989 and has published many books for children as well. He has been the host of the syndicated television show, Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures from 1993 to 2008, and Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild airing currently. His new television program, Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown, airs on Saturday mornings on ABC and features some of his favorite experiences with the world’s rarest, most endearing , and fascinating animals. Hanna also contributes regular commentaries as an animal expert on local and national news programs. But Jack reassures us that “We are still filming for Into The Wild and have many exciting adventures to share.” The fifth season of the show began airing this month when he and his crew headed to Africa for more WILD adventures.
Hanna recently gained national attention when on October 19, 2011 he assisted police in tracking down exotic animals near Zanesville, Ohio. The animals belonged to a private collector and were released by the owner prior to his committing suicide the same day. Hanna provided police assistance with expertise in tracking down leopards, lions, tigers, bears and monkeys which were roaming the highway.