The star who built the Columbus Zoo into an internationally-acclaimed wildlife center will step back from his public duties after 42 years.
“Jungle Jack” Hanna, the man largely responsible for elevating the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from a humble local zoo to an internationally known institution and a leader in wildlife conservation, has announced that he will retire at the end of this year. In addition to serving as director and director emeritus of the zoo since 1978, Hanna’s enthusiasm and charisma have long allowed him to serve as the public face of the zoo and an international wildlife educator, thanks to his lively animal demonstrations on Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman and his own syndicated television shows.
Hanna is widely credited with making the zoo a model facility, overseeing the transition from cages to realistic and more humane habitat environments for the animals.
“As I approach my mid-70s with more than four decades at the Columbus Zoo, I believe it is time to wind down and officially step back while CEO Tom Stalf and the zoo’s great leadership team continue to guide the zoo into the future,” Hanna said in a statement released this morning by the zoo. “Together with many friends and partners, we’ve come a long way to make the world a better place for people and wildlife!”
Hanna will step back from his public role, according to the release, but will retain the title of director emeritus.
A portion of the zoo’s new region, Adventure Cove, will be named for Hanna and serve as the physical representation of his legacy, according to the zoo. Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village will be a “highly-enriched and ever-changing environment for diverse species,” featuring behavioral demonstrations with sloths, cheetahs, tortoises, toucans and others.