Jack Hanna talks conservation

Take a walk on the wild side with America’s favorite zookeeper and host of the Emmy winning Into the Wild when he comes to Artis—Naples on December 29 for “Into the Wild Live.” Alive with energy, the show features many of Jungle Jack’s favorite animal friends and humorous anecdotes.

  • Hanna takes the stage December 29 at 6 p.m.
  • Tickets start at $30.
  • For more information, visit artisnaples.org.

In lead-up to Jungle Jack coming to Naples, we’re revisiting an interview with Hanna we conducted in 2012.


Jack Hanna

Noted conservationist and television host Jack Hanna has devoted his life to educating people on the lives of animals. Hanna started his work with animals at the age of 11, cleaning cages for the family veterinarian. His love for animals stuck with him during his formative years and grew into a career, becoming director of a small zoo in Sanford, FL and then later, the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Though working in zoos at some capacity for nearly 40 years, Hanna is best known for his television programs, Animal Adventures and Into the Wild, and countless media appearances as a regular guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America and Larry King Live, among others. Jungle Jack’s brand of conservation has been viewed in homes across the country, and is accessible to audiences from toddlers to grandparents. “I try to teach conservation in a simple a fun way,” says Hanna, who is currently on safari, filming his next season of Into the Wild. “We try to reach everybody.”

Jack Hanna - Into the Wild   Hanna’s excitement and accessibility to the animal world has been a welcomed voice for wildlife for nearly 30 years. “We are not out there jumping on animals, or picking up deadly mambas,” says Hanna. “I want people to see our show and think they can do that as well. But what we are doing is serious business, we are trying to save living creatures, keep our earth going.” It is conservation through education, a mantra Hanna has lived by since his early days with the zoo.

   Now, as acting Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, host of Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, and producer of a new program, Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown, Hanna is a busy man indeed. While preparing for an expedition to Rwanda and South Africa, Jungle Jack took a moment to speak with naplesillustrated.com about Into the Wild and conservation efforts today.


NI.COM: Why is it so important to ramp up conservation efforts now?

Mountain GorillaIt has gotten to the point that the phrase “endangered species” just rolls off people’s backs. But what people don’t realize is the next step is extinction. I have dedicated 40-something years of my life to the animal world and I tell people this very simple thing: what happens to our trees, forests and water eventually happens to our wildlife, which eventually happens to human life.

   My generation, the Baby Boomers, has done more damage to the planet than any other generation previously. But the generation of the last 15 to 20 years has done the greatest job in turning around what my generation screwed up. There is no doubt the planet is changing right now but you can’t be a pessimist about it. I know there are a lot of solutions to the problems with the planet today; we just need to get there.


How do zoos help with conservation efforts?

CougarThere are 223 AZA-accredited zoos in this country. Last year, 174 million people visited zoos in paid attendance; it is the largest recreation in America. The main purpose of zoos is education; we are educating people. We used to say that conservation was the most important aspect of zoos, but I disagree. Education starts the conservation process.

   We run a serious business saving animals and educating people at zoos. These animals are ambassadors to their cousins in the wild. And unlike what some groups would like you to believe, more than 95-percent of the animals in zoos and aquariums come from other zoos and aquariums. They are not coming from the wild; that practice ended a long time ago. And animals are no longer sold from zoo to zoo; that is unheard of now. Most animals are involved in Species Survival Plans and go to different zoos on breeding loans. Money doesn’t change hands between zoos anymore; it is not about that. We know how valuable these animals are to the planet; there is no amount of money that will bring back a gorilla or whale.

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