COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Jungle Jack Hanna has announced he will be retiring at the end of the year.
According to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Jack’s last day will be December 31, 2020.
Hanna has called the Columbus Zoo home since 1978, serving as both director and director emeritus over his 42 years in Central Ohio. (He was born in Knoxville and operated a pet store in Knoxville.)
“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. Together with many friends and partners, we’ve come a long way to make the world a better place for people and wildlife!” said Jack.
Jack first arrived in Ohio in 1965 to attend Muskingum University—always the animal lover, he even brought his pet donkey with him to live in the fraternity house. While at Muskingum, Jack met his wife, Suzi, and they married in 1968.
Just 10 years later, Jack was asked to serve as director of a little-known zoo in Columbus, Ohio. The Hannas never anticipated the adventures ahead but, together, they were perfectly positioned to lead the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the entire zoological world into the 21st century.
Jack served as the Columbus Zoo’s director from 1978 to 1992 before becoming Director Emeritus. He has authored 15 books, hosted several televisions series, has been the media’s “go to” wildlife correspondent and permeated pop culture while sharing amazing animals with audiences nationwide. He is beloved by his wife, daughters, grandchildren, the zoo community and millions around the world, whose hearts he has touched with his genuine enthusiasm, superhuman energy and passion for making a difference for wildlife.
While Jack will be stepping back from a public role and official duties to spend more time with his family, he will retain the title “director emeritus” and he maintains that he will always be the Zoo’s #1 fan.
“Suzi and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the Central Ohio community and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium family. Our 42 years at the Columbus Zoo have been the best of our lives—we’ve raised our daughters here and had the honor of revitalizing our Zoo alongside a great team while being advocates for wildlife worldwide. We look forward to supporting the Columbus Zoo for many years to come—while taking some much needed down time with our family along the way!”
Tom Stalf, who became the Columbus Zoo President/CEO in 2012, said he proudly carries on the Zoo’s legacy of global and local wildlife conservation that Jack and Suzi Hanna built.
Fans of Jack and Suzi will still have time to wish them well on their next chapter and continue to honor their legacy in a variety of ways, including:
Special Events at the Columbus Zoo. Please join us at the Zoo to celebrate Jack in person during Jack Hanna Weekend (Oct. 3 and 4) and Jack Hanna’s Home for the Holidays (Dec.12). There will be an array of activities and animal adventures that will be announced on the Zoo’s website at ColumbusZoo.org in the near future!
Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village. Opening this summer as part of the Zoo’s newest region, Adventure Cove, Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village will serve as the physical representation of Jack’s educational philosophy and his genuine enthusiasm for connecting people and wildlife. This brand-new area will create a highly-enriched and ever-changing environment for diverse species, including sloths, African penguins, bat-eared foxes, cheetahs, tortoises, toucans and more. By providing the opportunity to observe behavioral demonstrations with the animals, learn from Zoo educators and experience one-on-one animal encounters, the goal of Animal Encounters Village is to continue Jack’s work in inspiring guests so that they gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world and are empowered to help make a difference for wildlife and wild places.
Jack and Suzi Hanna Fund. The Columbus Zoo honored the Hannas in 2018 with the creation of an organization fund—the Jack and Suzi Hanna Fund—that supports wildlife conservation, transformative education and innovative habitats. These impact areas are close to the Hannas’ hearts and are aligned with the Zoo’s mission to lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife. More information about the Jack and Suzi Hanna Fund is available on the Zoo’s website here.
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