Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
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Music-Theater-Dance

Valentine gets wild with Jungle Jack Hanna

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Jungle Jack Hanna, known as America’s animal ambassador, will bring some of the “wild” to the Valentine Theatre Sunday with his show Into the Wild Live.

His goal is to make the shows entertaining for people  “from ages 3 to 100. The audience will learn by enjoying it,” he said in a phone interview from Pennsylvania after a show for an audience of about 2,000 at Penn State Altoona.

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Jack Hanna comes to the Valentine Theatre Saturday.

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In Toledo, he’ll show some of his favorite clips from favorite TV shows (he’s done more than 600 shows around the world in the last 30 years), alternating them with the appearance of live animals.

“I’ll tell stories, and comment on the videos I show, including trekking in Rwanda with the mountain gorillas,” Hanna said. Through Partners in Conservation, he and the Columbus Zoo work to support the moun­tain go­ril­las of Rwanda. His goals are conservation and education.

“The plan is to present a cheetah, sloth, kangaroo, an echidna, an unusual egg-laying mammal, and much more. But the show's staff said that the list is always subject to change.”

Hanna, who was director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for 15 years and is now its di­rec­tor emer­i­tus, has a saying that sums up his approach to his work: “Touch the heart to teach the mind.” 

“I talk about why I do what I do,” he said. When tours across the country, he tells stories about the zoological world, noting that “zoos are the arks of the world today.” He speaks about what zoos have accomplished, and how they are saving the animals of the world for future generations. 

“Whether the audience is 200 or 500 or 2,000 people — I don’t care if it’s two people, I don’t look at numbers — I look at talking to that audience and explaining to them what the zoos are.The zoos and the aquariums today are outstanding.”

And he talks about how he got started, growing up on a farm in Tennessee, dreaming of being a zookeeper, and as a child, cleaning cages for the local veterinarian.

Hanna grew up with pets; he got his first dog when he was 4 years old.

“My dad told me, ‘Jack, you can have a dog or a cat or anything you want. It’s your animal, you take care of it every single day.’ He made that very clear to me. Pets teach children about love (a dog is unconditional love, he said) and responsibility.”

He and his wife, Suzi, who have been married for 50 years, don’t have pets now because they travel so much it wouldn’t be be fair to the animals.

When it comes to “touch the heart to teach the mind,” television made it possible to touch millions. 

When people ask how he got started in TV, he tells them, “Good Morning America just called and asked if they could cover [the Columbus Zoo’s]  twin gorillas back in 1983, we were the first zoo with twin gorillas. They came and covered it, and then they asked if I could bring  animals to New York.”  In 2013, the show celebrated its 30th anniversary with Hanna.

He also made more than 100 appearances on David Letterman, and has appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Larry King Live on CNNand more.

His syndicated TV show can be seen locally. Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown airs at 10 a.m. Saturday on ABC, WTVG-TV, Channel 13.

Another show, Into the Wild, has won four Daytime Emmy Awards and was recently nominated for two Emmy Awards.

Hanna is excited about returning to Toledo; he appeared at the Valentine Theatre last year and is an admirer of the Toledo Zoo. He is asked to do more things than he has time for, Hanna said, “but when they told he about coming to Toledo, I said, of course I would. When I saw your zoo I was very impressed with it.”

Jack Hanna’s “Into the Wild Live! “ will be presented at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Valentine Theatre, 400 N. Superior St. Tickets are $19, $29, $39, and $49; a limited number of the $49 seats are available; call 419-242-2787 or go to valentinetheatre.com.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com

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