Children and families went wild for Jack Hanna, television host, conservationist and wildlife educator, at his “Into the Wild: Live” show at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, this past Sunday.
“Jungle Jack” and his staff of animal handlers presented species from the Columbus Zoo, where he is the director, and clips from his “Into the Wild” TV show in an effort to educate the public about animal conservation.
Hanna said that these shows are a chance to bring the animals to the people in a way viewing zoos or TV cannot.
“When you see them in person, you can almost feel it,” he said. “I could show you pictures all day long, but when I show a live animal, that’s something kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Among the animals Hanna presented were a ring-tailed lemur from Madagascar, a Eurasian eagle owl, the largest owl species on the planet and a pair of snow leopard cubs, an endangered species that Hanna can only bring on tours every ten years. He also presented a full-grown cheetah and warned the audience not to move while it was onstage, “unless they can run 70 miles per hour.”
One attendee, Liam Jordan, seven, said it was worth the three hour drive from Massachusetts, to see his favorite animal, the cheetah. Garrett Jordan, Liam’s father, watches Hanna’s TV show with his son and enjoyed sharing the experience of seeing him live.
“I remember watching him on Letterman and the next thing you know we’re here, generations later,” Jordan said.
Hanna showed clips from his shows, “Into the Wild,” and “Jack Hanna’s Wildlife Adventures,” as well as his appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Hanna’s passion for his work showed throughout the entire performance. He would often get caught up in his stories, sometimes rambling between personal experiences, comments about the Jorgensen camera staff and tangents about animal conservation. Despite running over the allotted 2-hour run time, the show was entertaining from start to finish.
Amongst the light-hearted anecdotes and animal demonstrations, Hanna presented chilling reminders about the future of the world if these endangered species are not protected. In one video about a rhino conservation preserve, filmed in 1983, the featured animal was killed shortly after the recording.
The animals Hanna brings to shows serve as “ambassadors to their cousins in the wild,” and help educate viewers about the plight they face. Hanna said zoos were the most attended family event and that much of the proceeds from them go to supporting animals in the wild and the people that help them.
Jorgensen house manager Catherine Fahey said the show had a very good turnout and was almost sold out. She said there are some additional difficulties when a show involves live animals.
“It’s just a matter of keeping them safe backstage,” Fahey said.
Hanna encouraged the children in the audience to follow their dreams, even if they seem difficult, and the feeling of succeeding at the thing you love. He worked for a veterinary clinic since the time he was 11 cleaning cages as a way to learn the business of working with animals.
“Live your dream, no matter what everyone tells you,” Hanna said. “You don’t know what it means to come to these theaters and do this.”