Miami goes wild for Jungle Jack’s visit
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 02:10
Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and prominent ambassador to the animal world will be coming to campus Monday, Oct. 14, to speak on “How We Can Better Share Our Planet with the Creatures Around Us.”
Hanna stands out among the other speakers on the Miami University Lecture Series as someone who has spent a large portion of his career right here in the heart of Ohio.
Hanna began his career with the Columbus Zoo in 1978 when its animal habitats were outdated and attendance was low. As director of the Columbus Zoo until 1992, he helped increase the attendance by 400 percent and brought the zoo some much-need publicity by adding educational programs and entertaining events.
Today, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a state-of-the-art park with additions such as Jungle Jack’s Landing, Zoombezi Bay Waterpark and Safari Golf Club that millions of people visit each year. In addition, the zoo owns The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation facility in southeastern Ohio that is the largest facility of its kind in the United States. All of these attractions have assisted the Columbus Zoo in being voted the number one zoo in the country by USA Today Travel Guide for two years running.
Hanna attributed the success of the zoo to its sheer size and diversity.
“We have a huge complex up here. There’s no other zoo that is like it as far as all of those things together. That’s how we’ve been very successful,” Hanna said.
Junior zoology major Joseph Frame has worked at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio for the past two summers as an intern and educator. As a fellow animal lover who hopes to become an exotic veterinarian, Frame said he has always been inspired by Hanna’s success despite the fact that he only has a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“He’s proof that you don’t necessarily have to have the degrees to educate people as long as you are passionate. His passion for animals is what has made him so successful,” Frame said.
The Columbus Zoo has received national attention thanks to Hanna’s three television series: “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” the longest running animal show on television, “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” and “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.” Hanna’s latest series, “Wild Countdown,” is filmed right in the Columbus Zoo for visitors to see.
Senior Andrew Hogan, president of Miami’s Wildlife Society, grew up watching Hanna’s television programs and was inspired at a young age to pursue a career with animals.
“I was first introduced to Jack Hanna through his shows ‘Animal Adventures’ and ‘ZooLife,’” Hogan said. “When combined with my own personal experiences with animals, I was inspired to work in a zoological facility, combining animal care and education. His shows spurred me to attend zoo camps and to learn all I could about animals, zoological facilities, animal training and informal education.”
Although he is no longer an active zoo director, Hanna’s presence at the Columbus Zoo is still highly apparent. His base camp, which he calls a “yurt,” is located right next to the elephant exhibit, and looks like a giant tent. Inside the tent are old pictures and mementos from Hanna’s travels around the world.
“It’s kind of set up to look like a place that he would be living in the desert or in Africa,” Rachel Csaszar, a member of Hanna’s public relations team at the Columbus Zoo, said.
While visitors are not allowed to go inside the camp, they can take pictures of the outside and perhaps even catch a glimpse of Hanna with a few of the zoo’s animals, some of which Hanna said may even make a guest appearance during his lecture.
Senior zoology major Erin Collin said she did not watch much of Hanna as a child, but spent much of her time watching similar shows on Animal Planet. This, together with frequent trips to the Detroit Zoo at a young age, fostered her love for animals and she now understands the importance of providing these educational programs to the public.
“Humans aren’t going to make it through the circle of life on their own; we need the other plants and animals simply to function,” Collin said. “Once we begin wiping species out, even something as small as frogs, we begin to alter environments and the world in ways I would bet most people couldn’t even imagine. We, as humans, literally cannot run this world on our own. Hopefully, people begin to realize this before it’s too late.”
Hanna is constantly on the move. He traveled 221 days last year and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
“I love doing colleges and universities and do probably 10-20 out of the year,” Hanna said. “We also have to film our television series and that takes me on the road all the time.”
Although Hanna himself attended Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio, he admits to having many ties with Miami University. His daughter Suzanne calls Miami her alma mater and his granddaughter Brittany is looking to attend next year.
Hanna is speaking in Hall Auditorium at 8 p.m. Students can pick up their free tickets starting Wednesday.
After his visit to Oxford, Hanna has an itinerary packed with trips around the world to film for his current television show. In a couple weeks, he will visit Gabon in West Africa, a country known for its populations of African elephants and gorillas. Upon finishing there, he will travel to Rwanda where he and his wife have built a school and an orphanage.