Jack Hannah, director of the zoo, known for starring in live TV shows, has been diagnosed with dementia, his family said on Wednesday.
Doctors believe it is Alzheimer’s disease, the family said in a statement.
“His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than one might expect,” his daughters said.
“Unfortunately, Dad can no longer participate in public life, as he used to, where people around the world watched, studied and laughed with him,” they said.
Hannah, 74, known as Jungle Jack, was director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, where she remains an honorary director.
He was known for bringing animals to TV presenters such as David Letterman and others, as well as to Good Morning America, where he first appeared with baby gorilla twins in 1983.
He also had his own television programs, Jack Hannah’s Animal Adventures, Jack Hannah’s In the Wild, and Jack Hannah’s Animal Adventures.
Hannah, who always appeared in khaki, considered the animals to be ambassadors of those in the wild.
He was appointed director of the Columbus Zoo in 1978 and retired last year. The zoo admits to him that he has turned it from an “aging collection of pens and buildings” into what it is today. The zoo is often listed as one of the best in the United States
The zoo said it was sad to learn of the diagnosis, and asked fans to join it in sending messages of support to the family.
His daughters, Catalan, Susanne and Julie, wrote that their father believed that people who saw animals led to a greater commitment to their conservation efforts in the wild.
“He always said, ‘You have to touch the heart to learn the mind,'” they write.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he and the state make best wishes to the family and keep them in their prayers.
Hannah’s daughters said that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they want privacy, which they call ironic, given their father’s love of communicating with people.
“As Dad’s health deteriorates rapidly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine,” his daughters wrote. “And yes – he still brings his poop home.”