April 9 (UPI) — Famed wildlife advocate and television personality Jack Hanna has been diagnosed with dementia and will no longer make public appearances, his family said.
In a statement on Wednesday, his three children Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie Hanna said doctors believe he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and his condition has degraded much faster than anticipated over the past few months.
“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,” his children said. “While dad’s health has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through. And yes — he still wears his khakis at home.”
Along with being a mainstay of television talk shows, Hanna was also the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo until he retired last year.
Hannah started his career at the Columbus Zoo in 1978 and his children said that he loved working there.
“He has spent his life connecting people and wildlife because he has always believed that having people see and experience animals is key to engaging them in more impactful conservation efforts,” they said. “He’s always said, ‘You have to touch the heart to teach the mind.'”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he and his wife, Fran DeWine, were saddened by the news of Hanna’s diagnosis.
“Along with our fellow Ohioans, we wish Jack, Suzi and their daughters our best as they navigate the challenges of this disease and will be keeping them in our prayers,” DeWine said in a statement. Suzi is Hanna’s wife of 53 years.
The Columbus Zoo issued a statement saying it was also “saddened” by Hannah’s diagnosis.
Hannah’s children requested privacy due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We are grateful that the many hearts he’s touched over the years are with him during this journey, which gives us strength,” they said.