Famed zookeeper Jack Hanna was a regular sight on TV screens for generations, but he has recently stepped away from the spotlight — and his family has now revealed the reason.
According to Fox News, Hanna’s children confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that the Columbus Zoo director emeritus has been diagnosed with dementia.
“Now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease”
“Today we reach out to share some personal Hanna Family news,” wrote Kathaleen, Suzanne, and Julie Hanna. “Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease.”
Unfortunately, Hanna’s three daughters noted that his “condition has progressed much faster in the last few months” than they had anticipated.
“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,” they said.
The family statement went on to express Jack Hanna’s “great appreciation for hundreds of employees and volunteers who work extremely hard each day to care for the animals and ensure an incredible experience for the family who visit” the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
That zoo, they wrote, “has been a major part” of their lives for more than four decades.
“The many hearts he’s touched”
“From day one, Dad advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals,” the sisters added. “We share his dedication to the Central Ohio community and will continue to support the Columbus Zoo and conservation efforts around the world.”
Ongoing restrictions related to COVID-19 have also taken their toll on Jack Hanna, his daughters said, describing it as “ironic given Dad’s love of interacting with people.”
Hanna retired last year from his position as a spokesman for the zoo after nearly 30 years in that role. During that time, he became famous for making frequent television appearances in which he would introduce audiences to various animals.
“We are grateful that the many hearts he’s touched over the years are with him during this journey, which gives him strength,” his daughters concluded.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther was among the public figures who spoke fondly of Hanna, tweeting: “My heart goes out to the Hanna family at the news of Jack’s diagnosis of dementia. It is a cruel disease that steals our loved ones from us bit by bit. I pray for them to have strength and to know how much this community loves them.”