It really is been an astounding 42-calendar year trip for the world’s most famous zookeeper. Even in retirement, his legacy will keep on to impression the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Energetic. Sort. Humble. Jack Hanna is quite a few issues to quite a few folks, but to Suzi, his spouse of practically 52 years, and others who know him ideal, it is individuals features that stand out.
But to citizens of Central Ohio younger and aged and to Tv audiences all-around the earth, he’s Jungle Jack Hanna—lover of animals, passionate conservationist, author, entertainer, Tv set character and hands-down, devoid of a question the ideal ambassador any zoo has at any time experienced.
Quickly, however, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will retire from his post—a career that has spanned 42 yrs, all 7 continents and far more television appearances than any person can count.
The zoo declared in June that Hanna would dangle up his hat on Dec. 31. He will keep the title of director emeritus, and his name will go on to be used, which include on Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village, which opened this summer season as element of the new Experience Cove location, the zoo’s greatest.
Hanna, whose deal expires at the conclude of the 12 months, suggests the timing was ideal to retire and invest far more time with spouse and children. “The primary issue for me is that we have grandkids in England, the United Kingdom, we have them in Cincinnati, so there is items I want to do at my age,” he says from their house near Glacier National Park in Montana. He also wants to return to some of the countries he frequented on his Television set reveals. “We went all over the environment filming things. So if I get the time, I want to find the time to go and converse with the people who we labored with all above, with all those animals all around the entire world.”
“The Gentleman in Khaki,” as he came to be known, joined the zoo in 1978 and grew into a beloved determine not only in Central Ohio, but internationally. In addition to having his Television set individual shows, he frequently manufactured other media appearances to educate audiences about animals, the zoo and conservation. His 102 visits with late-night host David Letterman were being the stuff of Tv legend, with the host building jokes at Hanna’s cost and the animals occasionally running amok. But those segments and several others performed a major role in elevating the profile of the Columbus Zoo, which was perched on the brink of extinction at the time Hanna was hired.
How times have adjusted.
What a Extensive, Peculiar Journey It is Been
Hanna was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1947. He produced a enthusiasm for animals on the farm his household purchased when he was 5, and he commenced operating at age 11 cleansing cages for a nearby veterinarian. Right after graduating from The Kiski School, an all-boys boarding university in Pennsylvania, he came to Ohio in 1965 to analyze at Muskingum Higher education, as it was then known, with dreams of becoming a zookeeper.
It was there in New Harmony that he met the appreciate of his lifetime, Suzi Egli. Hanna had taken his pet donkey, Doc, to faculty and it lived behind a fraternity household for a time. “In my French class I appeared above and saw this lovely woman, which was my wife these days, Suzi. … And she was extremely pretty and a cheerleader. … And I reported, ‘Hi, I’m Jack Hanna, can you go and assistance me feed my donkey, make sure you?’ … Can you envision how passionate that is?” Hanna says with a snicker.
At initial, they were best buddies, Suzi Hanna remembers, but then the romance deepened. They have been married in 1968, and Suzi was before long expecting with their first daughter, Kathaleen, before graduating in 1969.
“When we obtained married, we danced to ‘Born Free’ and it was just about foreshadowing of what our existence was likely to be like. But at that stage, I continue to was in college or university. Jack had graduated, but we had no concept what course our everyday living would choose. And when I glance back again at it now, I just are unable to think the astounding experiences that [we’ve] experienced. But what warms your coronary heart extra than anything at all is that you just pray that you have built a positive big difference in the globe,” she says.
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After the Hannas graduated, they moved to Knoxville. He held a series of odd employment, owned a pet retailer, did a two-year stint as zoo director at the Central Florida Zoo, ventured into animal filmmaking and sold true estate. Their spouse and children grew with the addition of two more daughters, Suzanne and Julie.
In 1978, a close friend learned that the Columbus Zoo was seeking for a director. The Hannas’ youngest daughter, Julie, had been identified with leukemia and handled at St. Jude Children’s Investigation Hospital in Memphis. They needed to be shut to prime-notch care for her, and the standing of Children’s Healthcare facility in Columbus was an included incentive.
At the time, the zoo was portion of Columbus’ Sewers and Drains Office and was on the verge of shedding its affiliation with the American Affiliation of Zoological Parks and Aquariums.
“When I landed up there to go see the zoo, the cab driver reported, ‘We really don’t have a zoo.’ So the just one factor I knew I had to do then is to tell persons that the Columbus Zoo is not appropriate in the town of Columbus, just north of there, so which is what I went to do the job to do appropriate away,” Hanna claims.
Also on his to-do listing: constructing morale and producing an open up-doorway mentality among staff members, as very well as constructing additional purely natural animal habitats, in particular for the lowland gorillas, who experienced in no way been outside. “The to start with factor I did was to attempt and do that, to get the animals outside the house on grass,” he suggests.
A Star Is Born
Mel Dodge, then the director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Division, which arrived to run the zoo, served as a mentor and good friend around the a long time and supported Hanna’s using the services of. “I explained, oh my gosh, I have a probability to seriously create a zoo. It’s just one of those items that I was just really lucky to be a section of the zoo. That intended the earth to me,” Hanna says.
But the zoo didn’t just get a new director it obtained the complete Hanna clan. “The natural beauty was, mainly because Jack’s job was the zoo, that our loved ones could be with him. So on Sunday, a standard day was heading to church, having Kentucky Fried Hen, possessing a picnic at the zoo. And then we would get in the golfing cart as Jack would go close to checking every thing. And our relatives produced a sport out of selecting up trash. And to this working day, it’s just a really joyful memory for our total loved ones,” Suzi Hanna states.
Hanna garnered early assist from Worthington Industries founder John H. McConnell, who donated funds to transform the gorilla habitat, which opened in 1979 at a cost of $50,000.
Zoo attendance was a mere 341,000 in 1978, so Hanna employed many stunts to entice visitors, which includes hiring a human cannonball and a member of the popular Wallenda family members, who done a tightrope wander more than the tigers.
He also concentrated on cultivating support from the community—both from corporations and, eventually, from Franklin County voters, who passed a levy to assistance the zoo in 1985 and some others since.
Hanna’s endeavours bought a large shot in the arm in 1981 with the debut of his Tv set demonstrate, Hanna’s Ark, which he hosted with Kathaleen. It ran for two yrs on WBNS-10Tv set.
In 1983, Hanna was invited to Fantastic Morning America to converse about the zoo’s twin gorillas—the initial these types of pair born in the Western Hemisphere—and it led to normal spots on the present.
Two years afterwards, he manufactured his very first look on NBC’s Late Night time with David Letterman and eventually tallied 102 visits there and on CBS’ Late Present with David Letterman before the host retired in 2015. Hanna has a lot of stories about all those visits, most likely none a lot more iconic than when he appeared with a beaver in 1988 and utilized it as an prospect to play a trick on Letterman.
“When you very first feed these animals, they’ll go to the bathroom in their tiny drinking water tank. So I fed the animal in the water tank and took it on the Letterman display and confident enough, he went to the lavatory and slapped it all over David Letterman’s desk. Individuals laughed like ridiculous. I claimed, ‘Oh male, I received back [at] him.’” Unfortunately, the joke was on Hanna, who was bitten on the hand when the beaver got spooked by the drums. He completed the segment, bleeding into a glove, and rushed down the avenue to a medical center, where he was greeted by a nurse screaming loudly that he had been shot. “I mentioned, ‘Ma’am I wasn’t shot, I was bitten by a beaver.’”
His ultimate Letterman look, on April 29, 2015, was a clip-crammed handle that introduced Hanna to tears. You can even now locate it on YouTube.
Hanna’s Television set talent eventually acquired him 3 syndicated shows of his possess, such as Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, which ran from 1993 to 2008 Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, which debuted in 2007 and acquired him five Emmy awards and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown, which begun in 2011.
Hanna served as director of the zoo till 1992, when he became the director emeritus. Above the years, he has penned 15 books, such as his 2008 autobiography, “Jungle Jack: My Wild Daily life.”
“He Was Willing to Consider Risks”
The other Suzi in Hanna’s lifetime is Suzi Rapp, the zoo’s vice president of animal packages, who has worked with Hanna given that 1979 and invested many times on the highway with him for Television appearances.
“He is truly one of the kindest human beings I have ever fulfilled in my daily life. And I am truly blessed to have gotten to work with him for as lots of decades as I have,” Rapp says. “He was never ever this iron fist form of guy … any conclusion he designed was made from the heart.
“He is definitely 1 of the most supportive folks I’ve ever satisfied. And I imagine why he was so prosperous, he was keen to acquire dangers that no other zoo people today were keen to choose. You know, he was ready to acquire the pitfalls that could or may perhaps not work out. Most of them did, some of them didn’t. But for the reason that of that, I believe I’m the possibility-taker that I am. And I have gotten the place I am for the reason that I realized from him,” Rapp suggests.
1 of the most thriving gambles was the animal ambassador system. “When he arrived to the zoo, the Columbus Zoo was just one of the 10 worst zoos in the nation. And his objective was to turn it about, but the difficulty was individuals weren’t coming to the Columbus Zoo. So he knew to get the support he wanted, he had to get animals to the persons. And so which is what he did. I imply, we literally would acquire animals in this white station wagon,” Rapp claims. They would make stops in the places of work of local executives and at universities and libraries. The outreach labored.
Growth above the yrs has been huge. The zoo went from 341,000 website visitors in 1978 to 1 million in 1991 and practically 3 million in 2019. The functioning price range grew, too, from $2 million to $100 million.
Nowadays, the zoo and its 10,000 animals are a massive draw for locals and website visitors alike. Kari Kauffman, vice president of vacation spot expertise at Knowledge Columbus, claims the modifications Hanna ushered in over the several years and his innumerable national Tv appearances lifted the zoo’s profile and brought quite a few accolades, like the 2009 designation from United states of america Journey Guide naming it the No. 1 zoo in The us. “His connection to Columbus raises recognition of Columbus,” she states. “He has genuinely brought good recognition.”
Concentration on Conservation
But Hanna’s superstar standing didn’t just raise the profile of the zoo and earn him a area on Folks magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People today in the World” in 1996. It enabled him to raise money for the triggers he cares about: conservation, kids and humanitarian initiatives, together with in Rwanda, the place the Hannas have traveled numerous occasions to notice the mountain gorillas. They are so passionate about the gorillas, the state and its people, they even developed a residence there.
Companions in Conservation, started out at the zoo in 1991, focuses on conservation and humanitarian problems in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the assistance of far more than three dozen associate businesses. Rapp says the nonprofit was concentrated on Rwandan gorillas and expanded its scope to create a faculty for little ones impacted by genocide. “It’s not just about animals,” she states. “He’s actually a humanitarian, for the reason that in his philosophy, if you really don’t just take treatment of the people, there’s no way you can acquire care of the animals.”
In 2019, the zoo awarded extra than $902,000 in grants to assistance conservation jobs in 37 nations around the world. Tom Stalf, the zoo’s president and CEO, states Hanna has utilised his system to existing conservation challenges to a wide audience. “There’s hundreds of hundreds of people today ideal now in this world that are both zookeepers, veterinarians or some style of conservationist mainly because they had been inspired by Jack,” he states. “He’s a excellent listener, he’s a terrific dilemma-solver, and he’s a doer, and so when you set all of these together and emphasis on conservation, we see a fantastic beneficial affect,” Stalf claims. “People get powering him when he states there’s an animal in require. Men and women have faith in him, and they donate.”
“He Constantly Puts the Zoo First”
Speak to these who know Hanna, and the word “humble” pops up time and yet again. Stalf claims Hanna is gracious with his time, signing autographs, having images and telling tales with adoring followers. Individuals generally categorical surprise that the Hannas appear so down to earth, Stalf claims, and he has experimented with to get a website page from that playbook. From Hanna, Stalf claims, he figured out “to be a servant leader. Jack has often performed regardless of what he felt was the most effective for his workforce and his neighborhood.”
“I’ve realized my management through Jack,” he states. “He’s invested in me and he’s like a father determine to me, and I truly recognize everything he’s specified me.”
Dave Blom, the retired president and CEO of OhioHealth, is a longtime buddy of Hanna. They achieved via OhioHealth’s purpose as a zoo sponsor. Blom and his spouse, Kris, have taken many excursions with the Hannas in excess of the decades, which includes climbing and fishing in Montana and likely to Africa.
“Wherever I’ve been with Jack—all in excess of the West, Africa and numerous other places—he constantly places the zoo first,” Blom says. “With the profile and the visibility and the charisma he has, he could have created this a ton more about himself, and he did not do that. He built it all about the zoo and the metropolis. He could have enriched himself substantially much more than he did on all this, but he’s produced the zoo and the town and Central Ohio very first.”
Blom also credits Hanna for boosting the business sense of the zoo. “He has really professionalized it. He has embraced science and business principals,” Blom says. “Probably the most critical matter is he has provided it a manufacturer. The Columbus Zoo has a wonderful manufacturer internationally, not just nationally.”
For now, the Hannas, who also have homes on zoo assets and near Jupiter, Florida, program to love time with family members. Kathaleen is married, has two kids and life in the United Kingdom. Suzanne, her partner and four young children stay in Cincinnati. Julie life in Dublin and is effective in the zoo’s animal plans division.
His colleagues say Hanna’s legacy will endure, by way of the facilities he served grow and develop and by the Jack and Suzi Hanna Fund, which the zoo set up in 2018 to aid wildlife conservation, schooling and habitats.
“His eyesight and his generate and his passion is what turned the zoo all around to make it actually one of the best zoos in the entire world. It is not one particular of the very best in the nation. It’s one of the ideal in the earth. And that is Jack Hanna, simply because he is what encouraged individuals. He is what inspired this local community,” Rapp says.
Hanna, at any time modest, credits his “amazing team” and the local community for the transformation. “I owe a fantastic deal to Columbus, Ohio. Columbus, Ohio, aided me a good deal with what I generally preferred to do, assisted preserve my daughter’s life,” Hanna states. “I just even now simply cannot imagine the magnificence of Columbus, Ohio.”
People who know Hanna well expect that he will not be a stranger. Rely Stalf amid them. “I am proud and humbled to be the chief of this organization, and it is a fantastic legacy that I will often continue on to market simply because no subject what, this is Jack Hanna’s zoo and we’re very pleased of that.”
“It was a wonderful lifestyle I had, it seriously was,” Hanna suggests. “I acquired to go when I initially got there and assist build the zoo, and now the zoo’s a person of the greatest in the region since of the people in Columbus, Ohio, they’re the types that aided so well. And so lots of organizations Downtown in Columbus, Ohio, assisted establish the zoo. So I was just fortunate to be there to operate for all people.”
This tale is from the Winter 2020 difficulty of Columbus Father or mother.