John Bushnell "Jack" Hanna
(born January 2, 1947) is an American zookeeper
who is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and
He was Director of the zoo from 1978 to
1993, and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating its
quality and reputation. His media appearances have made him one of
the best known and well-liked animal experts in the United States.
Hanna, nicknamed “Jungle Jack,” is
instantly recognizable by his khaki safari outfit, deep tan,
Southern twang, pseudo-serious delivery, and shaggy hair.
Life and career
born in Knoxville,
He grew up on his father's farm outside
Knoxville, and volunteered for a veterinarian when he was 11.
attended The Kiski
School, an all-boys boarding school in Saltsburg,
Pennsylvania, for high school, graduating in 1965.
in business and political science at Muskingum College in New Concord,
Ohio, where he got in trouble for keeping ducks in his
dorm room and a donkey in a shed behind his fraternity house (The
Club). His senior year, Hanna married Suzi, a
cheerleader at Muskingum, and graduated in 1969. Though unable to
as a zoo for his father's farm,
the two opened a pet shop and petting
. In 1973, a three-year-old boy was mauled by a lion
at Hanna's farm and lost his arm. Hanna settled the
subsequent lawsuit out of court, shut down the petting zoo, and
moved his family to Florida .
worked for a wildlife adventure company and directed the small
Sanford Zoo and Central Florida Zoo from 1973 to 1975.
When he was offered the
position at the Columbus Zoo in 1978, one of the reasons he
accepted was because he believed Children's Hospital
in Columbus had the
best treatment available for his daughter Julie's leukemia
. She recovered by the age of six, though
she needed to have a brain tumor
later in life.
At the time he became the zoo's director, the grounds of the zoo
were unkept and the facilities run down. Hanna initially struck
many as a "zealous" zoo director, often traveling around the zoo
grounds after closing to personally pick up trash. He also realized
the importance of increasing the profile of the Columbus Zoo in
central Ohio to garner more public support and funding, and the
"-seeming Hanna proved to be very
well-suited to public relations for the zoo. From 1981 until 1983,
Hanna hosted a television show called "Hanna's Ark" that aired on
the local CBS affiliate in Columbus, WBNS.
Hanna's live animal demonstrations on Good Morning America
and both of
's talk show
incarnations brought national attention to the Columbus Zoo as well
as to Hanna himself. Over the course of Hanna's tenure as director,
the zoo made the transition from cage-like enclosures to habitat
environments, and the grounds were significantly expanded. The
annual attendance of the Columbus Zoo increased by over 400% during
Hanna has published an autobiography, Monkeys on the
in 1989, as well as many other books for children.
He has been the host of the syndicated television show "Jack Hanna's Animal
" since 1993. Hanna also occasionally contributes
commentary as an animal expert on various local and national news
programs, and has done guest spots on other shows such as
Larry King Live
, and Hollywood Squares
. He was also named
one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" by People
magazine. Hanna also appeared in Neal McCoy
's 2005 music video for "Billy's Got
His Beer Goggles On" with a Hyacinth
, a sloth
and an albino burmese python
. Hanna, along with Emmy-award
winning musician Mark Frye
, released an
album through Virgin Records
entitled Jack Hanna's World.
Hanna and his wife, Suzi, have three daughters: Kathaleen, Suzanne,
and Julie. He spends much of his time at his home in
Montana, where he expects to retire soon.
been granted honorary Ph.D.s from Muskingum College, Otterbein
College in Westerville, Ohio, and Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
He currently attends New
Hope Church worship services.
- Online transcript of Jack Hanna interview with
Larry King Live, CNN.
Aired January 6, 2004.