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Animals expert, menagerie bring fun, education to Authors! Authors! series

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Jordan Baugh, 9, meets Jack Hanna and a palm civet before Mr. Hanna's address at the opening event of this year's Authors! Authors! series at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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With tales of fur and feathers, Jack Hanna left a crowd of 1,400 adults and kids entertained from head to toe.

How could he not, with these visual aids: an elegant cheetah (it required a quiet audience), a two-toed sloth, a sauntering flamingo, an albino python (it has 220 fishing-hook-like teeth), a Siberian lynx, and several film clips of his animal adventures.

Clad in his trademark khakis and wide-brimmed hat, Hanna Thursday night kicked off the 17th Authors! Authors! season sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. He paced the stage of the Stranahan Theater while delivering a commentary infused with as much fodder for laughs as animal facts.

“I tried to get my wife to breast feed a chimpanzee,” he began. “She said no.”

High-energy Hanna, 63, is director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo where he's involved in operations and on the board. But he spends most of his time edu-taining: He's got 96 speeches lined up between now and April, 22 television shows to film for his Into the Wild series, and trips scheduled for the Peruvian jungle, Patagonia, Chile, India, Europe, and Africa.

In between, he'll check in with the Columbus Zoo (he lives a mile away), visit his and his wife's three daughters and six grandchildren, escape to the couple's two-room cabin in far northwestern Montana, and perhaps make a journey to the home they built in Rwanda, a country whose praises he sings.

“It's one of the safest, cleanest countries in the world,” he said, well into a remarkable recovery from the horrific genocide in 1994 that left 800,000 dead, most by machetes. “I lost a lot of friends,” he said, adding he's visited the east-central African republic since 1982.

Among his animal nuggets:

• Mountain gorillas, discovered in 1905, number only 620. Adults weigh 400 to 500 pounds and they live in family groups of 12 to 40 at altitudes of 8,000 to 14,000 feet.

• Twenty-seven species of lemurs remain, down from more than 60. He brought a red-ruffed lemur.

• Foxes (he brought one) are very social. Healthy adults hunt, and feed their old, sick, and very young before they eat.

• The rare cloud leopard from Malaysia (a juvenile made an appearance Thursday night), spends 90 percent of its life in trees and can leap 25 to 30 feet.

• The furry palm civet, also Malaysian, can kill a cobra by walking in circles around it, just out of reach. The cobra watches, becomes dizzy, and loses its balance: that's when the civet strikes.

• When hibernating, the black bear's heart rate drops to about two beats per minute and its kidneys shut down.

Contact Tahree Lane at:tlane@theblade.comor 419-724-6075.

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