New York Daily News
Family says Hanna has dementia
Wildlife expert Jack Hanna has been diagnosed with dementia, his family said in a statement shared on social media on Wednesday.
Hanna, the director emeritus of Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, appeared more than 100 times with David Letterman and was a frequent guest on ABC’s “Good Morning America” throughout his decadeslong career. His deadpan sense of humor and charismatic personality turned him into one of the country’s best-known zookeepers.
In 1993, he began hosting “Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” a nationally syndicated television series. A new show, which premiered in 2007, won five Emmy Awards during its 13-year run. “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild” was last nominated in 2020.
His daughters Kathaleen, Julie and Suzanne wrote that doctors say that his diagnosis is “now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease,” and that he’s retired from public life.
The condition of the 74-year-old passionate conservationist “has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated,” they 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 (photo) was hired as the zoo’s director in 1978.
He made his first appearance on “Letterman” in 1985. On Hanna’s final visit in 2015, the host said that with a combined 102 appearances on NBC’s “Late Night” and CBS’ “The Late Show,” Hanna trailed only Regis Philbin and Marv Albert in “Letterman” guest shots.
At the time, Letterman introduced a compilation of Hanna’s appearances, saying, “You’ve been more than loyal and completely giving to us, and we really, really love you, Jack.” Hanna was moved to tears by the clip.
“From day one, Dad advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals,” his family’s statement read.
After he stepped down from this role as the organization’s executive director in 1992, “he continued to be a spokesperson for the zoo until his retirement last year.”
“The diverse animals, habitats and immersive experiences that define today’s Columbus Zoo would not exist without the efforts and visionary leadership of America’s favorite zookeeper,” the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said on its website.