Jack Hanna — the former zookeeper, wildlife TV host and frequent late-night TV guest — has been diagnosed with dementia and will be stepping away from public life, his family said in a statement.
“Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease. His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated,” his family said in a statement signed by his three daughters, which the Columbus Zoo shared on Twitter. Hanna served as the director of the Columbus Zoo from 1978 to 1992 and continues to be its director emeritus. He also served as a spokesperson for the Ohio zoo until he retired last year.
“A passion for wildlife conservation and education has been at the core of who our dad is and everything he has accomplished with the help of so many,” the family continued. “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 conservation efforts.”
Hanna has hosted several TV shows, including the syndicated Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, which ran from 1993 to 2008, and he has written several books about wildlife. Also known as Jungle Jack, Hanna has been a frequent and beloved guest on late-night TV, where he presented live animal demonstrations on shows including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night With David Letterman and The Late Late Show With James Corden.
“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,” his family said.
We’re saddened by the latest news of Jungle Jack’s dementia diagnosis, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease, and Julie’s health complications that were shared today in a heartfelt letter written by Jack’s daughters. Please join us in sending messages of support for the Hannas. pic.twitter.com/h0sklVWN4k
— Columbus Zoo (@ColumbusZoo) April 7, 2021