****I don’t really agree with Jack’s philosophy which is one reason why I wanted to interview him. His passion for animals is real and I admire him for that, but his ardent defense of SeaWorld is something he and I disagree about.***
A couple weeks ago, I was savoring a cup of perfectly brewed French Roast while watching Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, on Saturday morning television. (As an aside, his ability to connect with dogs seems truly amazing.)
I forgot the TV was on, scrolling through my Facebook feed, when I heard an advertisement about Jungle Jack Hanna coming to the San Diego area. In a sparkle of synchronicity, when I looked up, there was an episode of Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown. You know who he is, right? He’s been around forever on all the late night talk shows. Often with his wife by his side, attired in his khaki uniform, he’s a virtual fountain of animal knowledge.
I surfed over to his website and emailed the contact person about scheduling an interview while he was in town at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. They were kind enough not only to provide press credentials, but set up a telephone interview with Jack a few days prior to his appearance.
John Bushnell “Jack” Hanna is an American zookeeper, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He was director of the zoo from 1978 to 1992, and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating its quality and reputation. He’s the host of TV’sEmmy award winning Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.
We have a bit of a difference of opinion about Seaworld and zoos in general, and while he concedes that certain things about Blackfish were a real portrayal of what happened with the whales, he’s a staunch and passionate supporter of their rescue skills and education programs.
Some of the conversation I jotted down as we were talking, with his approval:
He is involved as a person who supported Seaworld since the beginning.
Blackfish is trash.
Very big proponent of Seaworld’s conservation efforts.
Manatees were going extinct –and Seaworld saved them.
Disappointed with people who hate Seaworld.
He asked me a rhetorical (in my opinion) question, ‘How do we learn about the animals?”
He doesn’t agree with anything that might harm the animal.
He made a point I have to agree with. There are no real completely wild places left in this world. When he’s filming, his guidelines are to respect the animals, don’t teach them to do anything unnatural. Back off, or don’t interfere or interrupt the kill.
I know that he works with the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda and they hold a special place in his heart. I was recently at the zoo in Seattle and took my grandson to see the gorillas (a favorite animal), and it was heartbreaking to see them. They looked completely depressed to me, and desperately need their habitat improved. There were blankets strewn about on the dirt ground and it looked as sad as a homeless encampment.
I had plans to ask him more questions, but there wasn’t time as he had to prepare for his flight to San Diego.
Here are the topics I didn’t get to broach with him:
What do you think about the current admin’s decision to reduce the size of our national parks?
*Ditto: Killing of hibernating bears
*Ditto: Drilling for oil
*Ditto: Delisting wolves
The show started at 6pm and I made sure I was there in plenty of time to get a little backstage time, if possible. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a packed house with so many people interested in learning about animals.
Jack was very hospitable- a complete gentleman- and made time to take a selfie with me:
Unfortunately, something went wrong with my Canon Rebel T3i , so all I have are the pics I took with my iPhone.
***These were all rescued animals, none were taken from their native habitat.***
It was pretty funny when the kangaroo got to run around the room but it happened so fast, I didn’t get any video.
While we don’t completely agree on several issues, I have mad respect for Jungle Jack Hanna’s passion for wildlife conservation, as well as his very obvious love for his wife of 47 years, his children and grandchildren.