STORY WRITTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For Digital First Media
America’s most beloved animal expert, Jack Hanna, brings his three-time Emmy Award-winning television series and infectious energy to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside with “Into the Wild Live!” on Saturday, Jan. 31, for 2 shows at 3 and 7 p.m.
Jungle Jack’s live shows will feature some of his animal friends, as well as fascinating and humorous stories and footage from his adventures around the world.
“Mine is a live show for the whole family,” Hanna says, “telling people about myself, how I’ve loved animals ever since I was a little boy, and how I’m now living my dreams.”
Hanna says his love and respect for animals began when he was just 11 years old, working for the family veterinarian on his family’s farm in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I then spent a few years at Kiski, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, and then went on to Muskingum College in Ohio where I meet my wife, Suzi.” Hanna explains.
And that, he says, was a turning point n his life. Together, the two opened a pet shop in Knoxville, then moved to Florida when Hanna accepted a position at the Central Florida Zoo. But it was in 1978 that he answered an ad for a zoo director at the Columbus Zoo.
Before Hanna’s appointment as director, the grounds at the zoo were unkempt and run down. But with Hanna at the helm, everything was cleaned up and attendance began to rise.
He also hosted a local television program, and went on to give live animal demonstrations on “Good Morning America,” as well as “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night With David Letterman” and many others.
Additionally, Hanna has been the host of TV’s “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventure,” “Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild,” and most recently “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.”
Says Hanna, “I’ve seen many, many things in my life – some good and some bad. But our shows are just for fun and also a way of educating our audiences. I want my audiences, both on television and in person, to enjoy themselves but also to learn something.”
And although Hanna is easily recognized and appreciated, he doesn’t look at himself as a celebrity. “I consider myself a zoo keeper, not a celebrity. I love what I do and that’s why I do it – and will continue to do it as long as I can.”
Today, Hanna and his wife enjoy the home they own in Rwanda. “We visit there every year, and truly enjoy interacting with the local people, as well as visiting the orphanage and school the Zoo helps support. And no visit would be complete without hiking with the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains.”
Now Directror Emeritus at the Columbus Zoo, Hanna says he continues to live by one message he finds profound: “Touch the heart to teach the mind. Hopefully, after all these years, I’ve done that.”
Tickets for Jack Hanna are $35 for adults and $25 for children 12 and younger. For ticket information call 215-572-7650.