Tanganyika Wildlife Park discusses work with Jack Hanna, effort to continue his mission

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Conservationist and wildlife educator Jack Hanna is stepping out of the spotlight as his family announced Wednesday that he’s been diagnosed with dementia, likely Alzheimer’s disease. Hanna, 74, served as both director and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for 42 years. He retired at the end of December.

For the past decade, Jack Hanna and his team have been working with Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard, showcasing some of the young animals at the park near Wichita. While it’s given some of Tanganyika’s animals a national audience, the park’s director said more importantly, it’s helping people people to better understand and appreciate the world around them.

On TV or at the Columbus Zoo, creating a better understanding of the world is what Hanna worked to achieve.

“The impact he’s had has been tremendous,” said Tanganyika Wildlife Park Director Matt Fouts who has worked with Hanna on multiple occasions. “As one of the most successful breeding facilities in the United States, we obviously have animals that he’s able to use in his programs and different things as he goes around in the country education people about animals.”

From time to time, the animals at Tanganyika have shared the camera with Hanna.

“That was a lot of fun. I personally got to go on David Letterman. I got to go on The Talk in L.A. We did Anderson Cooper 360 and I actually got to go on the programs. Mostly it’s my watch that made an appearance,” Fouts said.

It’s Hanna’s message, Fouts said, that matters the most in teaching people about the animals he showcased.

“I don’t even know if we can measure the impact that he’s had. The positive impact he’s had on people in their lives. I know several people in this industry that became zookeepers because of watching his show,” Fouts said.

Fouts said Hanna’s passion for wildlife conservation and education will keep going.

“It’s definitely something here at our facility that we hope to carry on. That mission of connecting people to the natural world is a very big part of our mission,” he said.

Fouts said what also impressed him was Hanna’s willingness to talk with people who came up to him after a show or an event. He said Hanna has also helped Tanganyika with fundraisers and other events.

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