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Famed zookeeper Jack Hanna diagnosed with dementia, family says

"His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated," his daughters wrote.
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/ Source: TODAY

Jack Hanna, the director emeritus of Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, has been diagnosed with dementia now believed to be Alzheimer's disease, his family announced Wednesday on Twitter.

"Today, we reach out to share some personal Hanna Family news," his children, Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie, wrote in a letter. "Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer's disease.

"His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated," the letter continued. "Sadly, Dad is no longer able to participate in public life as he used to, where people all over the world watched, learned and laughed alongside him."

Hanna, 74, who announced his retirement from the Columbus Zoo last year, joined the zoo in 1978 and became a familiar face on the small screen, often appearing on “The Tonight Show,” the “Late Show,” the “Late Late Show,” “Larry King Live,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Maury.”

Hanna has been a familiar face on talk shows and as the host of programs like “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures” and “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.”Joe Coomber / FilmMagic

The statement said Hanna’s wife remains fiercely devoted to her husband, even as the family deals with health problems faced by daughter Julie.

“Our mom — Suzi — has been by his side for 53 years in every corner of the world. She continues to be his rock (and ours, too),” it said. “We have great respect and admiration for Mom as we move through not only this difficult time with Dad, but also Julie’s continued life-long challenges from her childhood leukemia, as she is currently recovering from major surgery.”

The family said Hanna is still staying strong.

"While Dad's health has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through," the statement said. "And yes — he still wears his khakis at home."

The family also asked for people to respect their privacy while the pandemic continues.

"To keep everyone safe in light of COVID-19 restrictions, we are asking for privacy, which is ironic given Dad's love of interacting with people," they wrote. "We are grateful that the many hearts he's touched over the years are with him during this journey, which gives us strength."