April 30th 2014 | Director

John “Jack” Frederick Hanna

Jack Hanna served as director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from 1978 to 1992 and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating the zoo’s quality and reputation. He currently serves as director emeritus.
© Caravette Productions Ltd.

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Jack Hanna, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1947. Lived on a farm for many years and lived the dream of being a zookeeper.

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Did you ever go to any zoos as a kid?

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Yeah, my first zoo would have to be obviously not a zoo necessarily, but our home on the farm with goats. And like a lot of young people, fishing the Creek. Fish in the toilet bowl, keeping them. My mother got upset when I put ducks in the tub. Like a lot of kids do. Milking cows down the road, a guy named Ott Anderson. The three cows were named Street Walker, Kizmo, and Baby Face. How I remember that, I don’t know.

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When you’re 6 or 7 years old, milking cows. By the way, it sounds like I’m going back to the 1800s, but, I walked down the gravel road at eight years, six, I’m sorry, eight years old. Walked down the road over a mile by myself, off our farm to go down, we didn’t have, we had the horses and pigs, stuff like that. Walked down there and helped Ott make, milk those three cows, all he had, and make cottage cheese in a sock. And his grinding meal was run by a water wheel in the back. It’s now a national landmark, this mill. So that’s how I really got started in the animals, obviously. And then when I was 11 years old, I went to work for a veterinarian named Dr. Roy Roberts, at the Knoxville Animal Clinic.

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He came out and checked our animals once every two months or whatever. I said, Dr. Roberts, I would like to go clean cages at your clinic. He goes, “Really?” He thought I’d last a day, I lasted five years. Every single day, every single summer. I got my first check at $10 on my second month there. I was eight years old. I mean, 11 years old then.

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Are you kidding me?

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I thought it was a million dollars. I wish I’d saved that little check. It wasn’t just the money. It was watching everything he did. And then he took me down the Knoxville zoo. Like a lot of zoos back then didn’t have veterinarians. Most of the zoos didn’t have veterinarians. The local veterinarians still today, are veterinarians for some zoos. But he was veterinarian for the Knoxville zoo.

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We had Old Diamond, one of the largest elephants. It came from a circus at Knoxville. I just never seen an elephant. I never forget the day we did that. They had alligators. I never seen an alligator. They had deer. We actually had a lot of deer, rabbits, things like that. I think they had a couple of chimpanzees, obviously all enclosures.

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At least Diamond had a big yard with a big old bars around it, but still you don’t forget that. And I told myself at 16, I’m gonna be a zookeeper someday. I told myself that and I never wavered from that dream. That’s why I tell kids today, and young people, not just kids. Do the three words my dad taught me. Hard work. That’s pretty easy, hard work. And enthusiasm. I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Jack, work hard. “I don’t care if you want to.

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“And love what you do. “I don’t care if you live on the farm, have a gas station, “be a doctor. “I don’t care what you are, just love what you do in life. “Try and do that, all right?” He never took away my dream. And he also built some houses, my dad did. Nothing fancy, but you know, he took the wood off, and cut his own logs, stuff like that. And he wasn’t some mega successful, but he just took care of us in the family. I lived a good life, our family was, but that’s what he taught me.

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And you know, something?

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I lived that dream the whole way through. Now, how did, there’s another individual.

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How did Mr. Rasmussen in his pet shop do?

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How did that help you or, All right. Well, what happened then, as life went on, obviously I went away to school. Had a difficult time in school.

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You’ll see from this interview that I probably have ATTAD, what is it, Rachel, ATHT?

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So I got that problem, okay?

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But back then they didn’t have no problems like that. So I call it AT and T, who cares? I got it. So I’m gonna jump around a lot. So get ready. Anyway, so as life went on, I had a hard time in school, as I said. I worked my butt off. I worked hard in school. I had a very difficult time with testing and everything. I haven’t said this publicly.

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I don’t think I’ve ever said in an interview. I got turned down eight colleges, all of them. Nothing like Yale or Harvard. I’m talking about just like smaller schools. Because even when I went to school, they understood I had a problem. They tried to help me. So the head guy took me to see a school called Muskingum College in Ohio. Muskingum College, John Glenn went there.

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Agnes Moorehead, the actress. Other than that, you know, it was just a small 2000-people school in New Concord, Ohio. Here, I’m in Ohio today. I’d never think I’d even come back to Ohio. Nothing wrong with Ohio, I just went to school there. Went for four years there, married my wife, Suzi, who loved animals. I took my, I’m getting to answer your question here in a minute. I took my donkey with me the first day I got to college, and put him in my, in a, this thing I pulled behind the truck going to Muskingum.

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‘Cause then, well my dad would take the truck back. He said, “Okay, Jack, you got permission?” I said, “I don’t know, I’ll take care of this.” So I went and talked to some fraternity guys. I didn’t even know them. I said, and they, “Oh my God, yeah. “Put that donkey behind our fraternity house.” Well, they found out about second week of college. So at that point they took my donkey, and I put him on a farm next door, because it’s like a real agricultural area where Muskingum is. And then I got my ducks. I got them when I met my wife and long island.

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These ducks, I saved them ’cause it was a duck farm. I thought you raised ducks there for fun, but they raise them there to eat. So I got me three Ducks. Took them to college and then met my wife who loved animals. And we’ve been married 45 years. So that’s kind of how the whole thing started. But I was made fun of in college. I actually got called into President Dr. Miller, who talked to me since then.

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He and I were very close. I was on the board of Muskingum, as a matter of fact, later in life. But Dr. Miller called me in two weeks before graduation. I’ll never forget as long as I ever live.

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He looked at me in the face, ’cause I didn’t, I just knew he’s the president, two weeks before we graduate?

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I said, “What, what the president wanna see me for?” I mean, I had always told my dad, A’s are awful, B’s are bad, C’s are commendable, D’s are dandy, and F’s are fine. Well, I did a lot of D’s and C’s, every once in a while that the F thing. Fine, but it was the other way.

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The point is that I graduated with 2.2, all right?

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So I knew I graduated.

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So why am I going to see the president?

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He looks at me like that, he goes, dead serious. He says, “Young man,” he called me young man.

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“Why would you go to school here?

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“Jack, you’ve worked hard. “We know that you had a hard time in classes, “you graduated.” And you also had already married my wife on our senior year.

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“Why would you want to go and work “in a smelly place like a zoo?

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“Are you crazy?

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“I mean, your courses you took, “you majored in political science.” I did that because I’ve dropped back a second ’cause I was drafted the army during the Vietnam War. So, all my family went in the service, but that’s another story. The point is I just wanted to graduate, I married my wife and I wanted to go work at a zoo, or, you know, that’s what I was gonna do. I said, “Dr. Miller, I’m sorry. “That’s what I have to do. I don’t care. I majored in political science because back then, no one really cared what degrees you had working in a zoo or anything else. So that’s why I did all this.

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So it made me feel bad, you know?

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And I said, “I don’t care. “It didn’t change my dream.” I’ll come out and answer your question about Steve Rasmussen, or not Steve Rasmussen, he’s the head of Nationwide Insurance. But Mr. Rasmussen, he had just pet shop, and I heard it was for sale. A real nice one, by the way. And so I went in there and got the pet shop. You know, he just turned it over to me. I bought the pet shop, borrowed the money. My dad helped me with $20,000, borrowed this money.

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I then took his pet shop, I opened up a boarding kennel, I’m building about these trailers out back real nice. I made me a little pens, with goats and sheep and not exotic, you know, llamas and stuff like that. And ’cause Knoxville Zoo was 20 miles away. I just loved that. And then I had me a grooming thing added on. And then one thing led to another and it was just called Pet Kingdom, and did just wonders, you know. And that I did back then, I must say, you could order animals out of catalogs. I got the catalog in my book, which was, if I look back at it now, I don’t think it destroyed the animal world.

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I think it didn’t help at all, as far as having pets as exotic pets. But one thing I didn’t do, I didn’t go out selling lions and things like that, by any means. I had Daisy, my lion, I learned from. You know, I learned from this lion. She had a better than most accommodations than any lion in the country in the zoo today has. And then at that point, I, you have another lion, you have baby lions And that was when I built Hanna’s Ark out on our farm in Tennessee. So Pet Kingdom went on and this ark went on, and my brother took over for the brief time I was in the army because I had, I was legally blind, which they found out when I got in there. So I did my M-16s, I was firing all over the place, and hitting the walls.

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They thought I might be avoiding it, but I wasn’t because my best man at my wedding, my five best friends were all killed in Vietnam in eight months. So, you know, I knew I had to do something, but therefore I got removed out on a medical thing after two, after a year-and-a-half, two years in the reserves. Came back, I came back obviously in the reserves, and to run my pet shop and all that stuff. That was on the start of the first board of the Knoxville Zoo, by the way, little old Knoxville Zoo. They called it the Appalachians Zoological Society, never forget as long as I live. Guy Smith was the director back then. He have the head of a TV station ’cause nobody knew anything about what was going on in zoos. So that’s kinda how Pet Kingdom got involved in all this stuff and ended up, you know, helping the Knoxville Zoo.

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So, my animals, and you know, that’s just kinda how everything started. Let me, you mentioned that you wanted to be, and you had a vision of wanting to be a zookeeper, an animal keeper.

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And why did you want to be an animal keeper?

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I don’t know, I just, I, all those years I cleaned cages at the clinic. I didn’t mind cleaning cages. You know, I don’t know what it was, but I just had fun hosing and cleaning. Maybe it was, another relief for me, or just something I was accomplishing. I was accomplishing seeing people come in there, if their dog was hit by car or they wanted the dog groomed. My worst bite in my entire life, still almost today, was the day I was bitten by dadgum poodle. It almost took my left finger off, I never forget that. And I took a cast off a dog once, and the knife went right in my thigh, a big scar here.

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I took his knife, I was going backwards with it. I don’t know, I just, I was fascinated by the pets, and sure some people had pet birds and stuff like that. And that was, or a snake or something, that was really rare back then, but they did do that. But mainly going to the Knoxville Zoo, it changed my mind. Seeing these animals there, you know.

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Did I know the difference in caging and moats?

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Not really. Most of us didn’t by the way. As I tell people, by the way, most zoos in this country in 1950s, 60s, even early 70s, should’ve been shut down back then. And I’ll go in later about why today is a much different story. And thank God they weren’t shut down, a lot of them. But back then, it was a much different situation in the zoo world, you know, even to me.

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Well, you had fun there didn’t you?

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you fed peanuts to the chimps. You sometimes made funny signs to the animals and that kind of thing, at least the public did. Me, I just was fascinated by looking at the animals. And so, you know that changed my life. I said, I’m gonna be a zookeeper. I never sought to be a zoo curator or director or a CEO. Now I got these big, old names now. I’m a person, I don’t mind saying this on camera, I don’t necessarily like it, I really don’t.

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Like Tom Stalph, he’s like seasoned executive officer, president, zoo director, all in one big old title, across a piece of paper. You’re my age, You know what I’m talking about. Zoo Director, Assistant Zoo Director, Chief Curator, Curator, First Keeper One, First Keeper Two, and ever down. And then whatever it is, that was pretty simple. Yes, I know we had to do it because of society today. I’m just stating why how I feel, that’s all. It much simpler back then. Anyway, so that’s why I loved the animals, because you know, some of us are fascinated by animals.

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As I’ve traveled the world, every, I mean, I’ve traveled for 30-something years doing this. And I’ve not been to every corner, but about every corner. And so what you see out there are people who love animals. You see people who have consumption animals, and you see how we can educate people to do different things. So I saw all this coming. Never seeking to be anything but a zookeeper.

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And do you think some of these experiences, we’re talking about a lot of other things, but some of those experiences early on in your career were preparing, even though you weren’t thinking about it, were preparing you to be a zoo director?

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Oh, there’s no doubt about the experiences I was experiencing came back so critical for me being a zoo director. There’s no doubt about, I didn’t know it at the time.

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You kidding me?

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But now when I became a zookeeper, then a curator in Knoxville, and then that’s about where I went to. And then I was just lucky, and it’s long, we get into that, how I got to central Florida zoo, where I was the director of five employees. But you learn things because when you can do that, no one could come to tell you that you don’t clean a cage a lion that way. You don’t do an elephant that way. You don’t do a reptile that way. You don’t, you know, not because I’m a know it all. I don’t, I’m not a person that’s educated, like a lot of zoo people are book-wise. And I wish I could have done that when I, chemistry, bio, all that was very difficult for me.

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So I learned by reading, I learn by experience. That was invaluable to me, those things I learned when I was 18 20, 21, 22, 23. I also learned about accidents. And we’ll get into that in a second. If you read my book about how that little boy lost his arm to one of my lions. So I’ve seen things are, they’re incredible. I’ve seen things are emotional. I seen things I had to learn from like, we all learn in life, you know, mistakes happen.

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Things happen to all of us. I could go on and on and tell you mistakes I made. You know, but we’ll get into that too. When I had the Wallendas walk across the tigers. I mean, this, the crazy things I did back then. I would never do that today because I know better. I didn’t know better. The zoo was dying up here. But that’s another story.

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But I guess what, where I’m coming from is, yes, everything I did from the animal clinic at the age of 11 to 16 cleaning cages, I can even apply things there to today. Now you talked about the Florida in 1960, 73, your career took a turn.

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How did you get to this place in Sanford, in the Sanford Zoo?

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In 1973, okay, I graduated in 69 with my wife. In 1970, 71, 72, I got in the army there for about a year or so there. In and out of the pet pet shop business, and then that kind of thing. Then all of a sudden, Stan Brock, the host of Wild Kingdom, who by the way, is in Chicago, worked, I bet you know that, Stan Brock was the guy from Africa. Yeah, You know, Stan. Okay, I’m getting ready to do a documentary on Stan. They’re coming up here in two weeks to talk with me. Somebody’s gonna do a documentary on him.

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So somehow I met Stan in Florida actually, but I went to Florida because I’d met Stan by, I watched Wild Kingdom. So I had actually, I had him come to Knoxville to do one of his shows, show me some of his tapes at the Knoxville zoo We had a little fundraiser. I met Stan, Stan calls me. I haven’t said this. I can’t remember how I remembered this.

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He called, he said, “Jack, you know something?

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“Jim Fowler has a 2000 acres of place down there, “Albany, Georgia, and needs somebody “to help with the animals. “You know, I think you might want to try that.” Now I had the two kids, no, all three of them, the girl, little girls.

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I said, “Okay, that’s, that’s incredible.” So I said, may do that, I may do that, right?

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Then the terrible thing happened with the lion. One of my lions, Daisy. We had, I had built a house like an ark. Our farm was over here, and this other farm about three miles away. It built it like an ark, it’s called Hanna’s Ark. And out of wood, my dad and I built it. The toilets leaked, they froze over. It was so funny (laughs).

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Even though my dad knew what he was doing, I was trying to do most of it, I can’t do anything. So I screwed the whole thing up, but see, I love living there. And so we took this property, beautiful, and right out front of it had a gorgeous lion enclosure, I’m talking like a creek went through it, trees. I mean, it was like two acres. It was beautiful, like four or five lions in there. And then I had my, I did help with the Knoxville Zoo, with their buffalo, water buffalo. I had an elk of theirs out there. I had some deer.

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I had some, a Sika deer, I think it was. And my, oh, I had a spider monkey for them. At that point, they got the two chimpanzees we had, helping them, I don’t know why, where they, they were at the zoo. At that time, I was trying to take care of these other animals. I brought those there. We were bottle feeding those animals for the Knoxville Zoo. Then, no names mentioned, we had a person we knew brought her three old child up there. I had a three-year-old as well, by the way, and a one-year-old.

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But the three-year-old little boy went there to see the animals. She calls and, “Sure, come and see the animals.” So I’d gone over to The Pet, come back to the pet shop. My wife had taken the girls out for shopping. I said, “Just go in and look at them.” While you come to driveway, you park your car, I guess what happened, obviously. They parked the car, from what all has been discovered, I was not there. And they went across one fence, went across another fence. And then I guess she wanted the boy to pet the lion, and he put his arm through the chain link to pet Daisy, and Daisy happened to be the one, thank God. I guess, you know, grabbed the little boy’s arm here, right up here and took it through the chain link.

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And the arm was ripped off at the shoulder. So I was called by the highway patrol. Some of my lions just taken a little boy’s arm off. I sat there like this, like you would in shock. The officers there in the cruiser going 100 miles an hour took me over to where the little boy was. Never forget the light, the lights of the ambulance had just pulled up in there. That’s how fast they got me. And as I pulled up there, the mother was on the ground crying.

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She like, she was in shock. The little boy was standing up with a sheet around him, with the blood, you know, coming through and the medic. She said, pulled me out of the car, said, “Get in there and get the arm. “You’ve got to get that arm, “or the police will just shoot the lion right now.” “We’ll go see if we can get the arm.

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“You don’t have to shoot anything, okay?

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“Daisy, go sit down.” She would just, had the little arm there. Had not touched it. Eaten it or touched it in any way whatsoever. You just see the shoulder bones. I went and picked the little arm out. I had my rubber gloves, picked my little arm up like this, told Daisy to lay down over there. Went out, gave the arm to the, to the ambulance driver. And you know, everything just goes black for me then because I went up to my room and just went up there.

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I went up there for three days not eating or drinking. Nothing. Not, obviously feeling sorry for more the little boy. I had little children this age. Meanwhile, I get a call at nine o’clock in the morning, the little boy’s arm can’t be put back on.

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Maybe it could’ve been today, who knows?

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That’s could have, should have, and all that kind of stuff. At that point, I went up there. I said, I, Guy Smith was the director back then, he and my dad talked. My dad said, “Jack, we’re taking all the–” I said, “I want them all out of here. “I don’t want any more animals. I’m done. “I want no more animals. “Get them all out here, please, Dad.” Don’t worry, we’re taking care of that tomorrow. It wasn’t 24 hours, everything was gone.

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Every creature was gone, except my, I think I had my ducks maybe, I don’t know what I had. I think we had a little dog. Anyway, so on the second, third day I was in that room up there. I must say I drank water out of my sink, but a guy named Dr. Chesley came up to see me. He was a dentist, wrote part, helped raise me. He knocked on my door cause I wouldn’t, I didn’t wanna see anybody, my wife or nobody, until I could figure out in my mind what the heck I’d just done. And Dr. Chesley walks in, he says, You know, Jack, this is terrible, isn’t it?” I said, “I don’t wanna do this anymore. “Doc Ches, I’m not doing anymore.

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“I don’t care about anything anymore. “I’m just getting out of here.

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“I don’t know what I’m gonna do.” He said, “Sit down, will you please?

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“Can I tell you what happened “when you happened to be away at school?

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“Back when you was just, “this was like eight years ago, Jack?

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“You don’t even know, do you?” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “I came out of my driveway “and backed over my neighbor’s child, “eight-years-old on a bicycle and killed him. “I killed him, Jack, underneath my car.

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“Did I quit dentistry? Did I give up on my whole life?

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“You realize this is terrible. “You may not have anything terrible happen “the rest of your life, but you will have things happen.” Which later on, we’ll go into my daughter, having brain tumors today, and is total cancer all the time. That happened two years after this, but he was right in what he said. “So you have a choice. “You’ve loved animals, all your life. “I’ve known you since you were 11 years old, “working in a veterinarian, all this things, you’ve done. “Knoxville Zoo, all this stuff you’ve done to help start “the Appalachian Zoological Society, all these things.

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“So that just, no, you just gonna quit, right?

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“You a quitters, aren’t you?

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“That’s what you are?

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“Don’t do it, Jack. I know you, don’t quit.” So he talked to me. I thought about what he said the next day, I came down out of my room. You know, I called the parents, and there was, because of legalities, you know, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. So that killed me. I couldn’t see him or nothing else, the boy. So my wife would go shopping at the shopping, a little center where we lived, you know, a grocery, back in ’73 and people say, “that’s the, “that’s the wife of the guy who is, “he took it a little boy’s arm off with his lion.” You know, and she would hear this and she’d come home and tell me, I’d hear it when I go out. Finally, I said, “Sue, that’s it. “I’m done. We gotta get outta here.” I told my parents.

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I said, “I’m sorry, mom and dad, you know, “I’ve got, we gotta leave.” At that point’s when I found out about Jim Fowler, having his thing, I remember the call Stan gave me. I’m like, God, the Lord’s blessed me. We’re going. He said, “When you be here?” “Two weeks, I’ll be there. “All right, dad, you sell the house. “Sue, get the kids.” We ain’t, we’re not taking any furniture, nothing. We’ll take our belongings and a U-Haul truck. I’ll put a U-Haul truck behind my truck.

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She drove his little old, I think it was a station wagon, breastfeeding my second daughter, by the way, with two pair, I’m sorry, I did keep two parrots, two McCall parrots of my buddy’s, a spider monkey, Jokomo, ’cause he was a, someone had as a pet, and he was not taken care of properly and was a pet, but he was deformed due to lack of, you know, but I loved Jokomo. So Jokomo and then, and the two chimps, by the way, because the Knoxville Zoo bought them back to me, basically. ‘Cause I’d done so much work with them. And so I went down there.

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Here we go, traipsing down to Albany, Georgia, right?

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All of us in these trucks. We get there about five o’clock at night, Jim Fowler’s supposed to have this trailer, mobile home set up for me while I’m gonna take care of his animals.

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Elephants, giraffe, is like a dream, you kidding me?

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Take care of all these animals. I’m kind of in charge. And I got there and it was a piece of pipe coming out of the ground with a spigot and electrical plug. There wasn’t even a mobile home there, nothing. ‘Cause he wasn’t even there. I just pulled in his thing. He told me kind of where on the map to go. I, my wife didn’t cry or nothing. I said, “Let’s just find a motel.” All of a sudden, the man next door, who owned a huge plantation, kajillionaire guy.

00:20:09 - 00:20:31

He comes out and sees, well, he says, “That’s typical Jim. “Come over and stay at my place.” I’m telling you this because it affected my life. This was a plant, I never seen a plantation. Oh my God, I mean, it was like 10, I don’t how big this is. It’s called Gillionville Plantation. He, this man literally, at that point saved my life. Name was Lou Thompson, who was eventually killed about five years ago. On the interstate, his briefcase flew off the top of the car and a truck hit him.

00:20:31 - 00:20:52

You know, I hated that. But anyway, Lou came over there, took us in his family. I stayed there in this mansion thing for like two weeks, and they put my mobile home up, and then we had the greatest year of our life in that mobile home. It was like Born Free, was in my, we danced to Born Free by the way, at our wedding. This tells you how screwed up we were. But that was my song. My wife, cause I love Born Free, the movie, and I just dance to Born Free. Maybe that’s how I got the lions too, by the way.

00:20:52 - 00:21:17

That’s how I did get Daisy ’cause I saw that movie. And, so anyway, so we go back over there, and we’re in a trailer, you know, we did our wash and put the, put our drain in a tub and the dryer, and animals everywhere. I got to take care of the elephants and giraffes, just like living unbelievable. Then all of a sudden the central Florida Zoo, the zoo director, Stan Brock, called me again. Down, there’s a little zoo down there. Oh my gosh, you can’t be seriously, I can be a zoo director. Oh my God, he said there was only four employees.

00:21:17 - 00:21:19

I don’t care. How big is it?

00:21:19 - 00:21:27

Two acres downtown Sanford. You gotta get pictures of this zoo on two acres. Today, I went there in 73, and 75 July the fourth, exactly.

00:21:27 - 00:21:29

They were already starting to build a new one, all right?

00:21:29 - 00:21:50

But then I went out and talked to people, raised some money, more money for them. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. And then we moved the zoo to the new site, the Central Florida Zoo is on today, because it was very small. I could, took Daisy there. And then that’s where I was from ’73 to ’75 July the fourth. At that point, Stan Brock was starting a video about animals called the Forgotten Wilderness. I’m sorry to say it was forgotten (laughs). I had borrowed some money to invest in.

00:21:50 - 00:21:53

You don’t ever borrow money invest in anything, but I borrowed 25,000?

00:21:53 - 00:21:55

I got four of my buddies put in 25, we all lost it.

00:21:55 - 00:21:58

Anyway, so I had to go out and promote that movie, right?

00:21:58 - 00:22:15

‘Cause I already built the zoo in Knoxville. I wanted to go back to the Knoxville, maybe see help at that zoo. Now, I could live there and promote this movie around the Southeast. Well, I tried that, the day we moved, I tried that about two weeks. Then we moved back to Knoxville. We show up there at this brick home that we got for $50,000. All out of brick, the bathtubs are brick. The ceiling, everything was brick, counters.

00:22:15 - 00:22:37

At that point, we just lived in that house. And then Julie, my daughter, is where our life changed again. I mean what Dr. Chesney told me. About we wake up that morning, hadn’t even unpacked the boxes. Got in that night before. Her temperature’s over, right at 106. And ’cause she’s laying on the couch, just beet red, just bam. My wife goes over and says, “My God, Jack, her temperature’s 105-and-a-half.” I go, “What?” We just been back to Knoxville.

00:22:37 - 00:23:00

I called my buddies, “Where do I go see?” Went to Children’s Hospital in Knoxville. They took her right away. Her big old mosquito bites. She had a little teeny one that night, was like this big on her leg. All of a sudden they did this saying, “Jack, we’re gonna have to do a bone marrow “because we don’t know what’s happening here. “It can’t be cancer though.” They came back in the room and said, “Your daughter has a very bad form of a leukemia. “Jack, you’ve gotta get her St. Jude hospital “next eight hours or she can’t make it. “There’s no way, her blood count, everything’s gone.

00:23:00 - 00:23:22

“Do you know anybody has a jet?” I said, “I, no one’s got a jet.” So I called a buddy who knew a buddy. He came in there and got a twin engine plane. We put Julie in the plane. Now, remember, I’ll only been back 24 hours. We fly to Memphis. They took her away from us, put her in a glass box for I don’t know how long. Out of 12 kids on her floor, make a long story short, over the year period, she and a little boy survived, that’s all. And then our lives, of course, changed again.

00:23:22 - 00:23:23

Here we are again.

00:23:23 - 00:23:28

Now, you’re still, at that time you’re still working for Jim Fowler, or you’re at Sanford?

00:23:28 - 00:23:33

No, at this point, I’ve now left Sanford on, remember that zoo, we wanna go back, and talk more of that zoo part maybe?

00:23:33 - 00:23:36

Let me do that, and then I’ll go, I told you I jump around, all right?

00:23:36 - 00:24:01

And you can edit this whole thing. So yes, So I get, and I’ll come back to the thing with Julie, ’cause that changed our lives big time. So, therefore I get that opportunity, everybody, to go to Sanford, Florida, and you got to see a picture of this little zoo right across from the courthouse. Not even two acres, it was like a cage, a big old, like a big chain link fence, 15 feet around it. Right in the middle of downtown Sanford was very small place right on Lake Monroe. Lake Monroe was right there. And this has been there for years, this little place.

00:24:01 - 00:24:03

They had a moat they used to have monkeys on, right?

00:24:03 - 00:24:28

You had all the barred cages with a tiger, a lion. I think a Jaguar, I don’t know. A big thing with peacocks and deer in it. Alligator pit, and then my idea was, to take this monkey island that was empty, and I got a hippo. And back then, you know, animals, you could find. It was a zoo, there was no, I don’t think there was AZA then in 1972 or three, I don’t think, I don’t remember. Anyway, they sure wouldn’t, we couldn’t be a member of it.

00:24:28 - 00:24:31

I found the elephant in Miami, all right?

00:24:31 - 00:24:38

A hippo. So I get the hippo. And then we get the baby elephant. I put the baby elephant and hippo together.

00:24:38 - 00:24:39

They’re just babies, right?

00:24:39 - 00:24:54

I just got a baby hippo, baby elephant. I figured that’d work. In the wild you see them not really play with each other. And they grew up together those three years, I was there. So Big and Fat Boy. So Big was the elephant. I had So Big Sandwich shops to get the elephant, and Fat Boy was a restaurant barbecue chain. So I got those guys to give me those things and we did.

00:24:54 - 00:25:17

And then I got, this is terrible, I know, but there was a guy named Rudolph Alexander, who was a chimp trainer. He just was in the area. I had about 20 chimps out of there. You know, he came from Austria. He was known in the circus world, he said he was, but no one knew him. It’s just a little circuses. So I had him bring the Chimp to the zoo on top of the little concrete building in the middle of this little, you know the moat, you know, with the sand around it. And there’s a little housing for the animals.

00:25:17 - 00:25:43

We’d been there for years, that have the monkeys, but I tore the wall out and made it bigger for the little elephant, hippo. And I put Rudolph Alexander on top of there twice a day. He’d do Chimp shows, you know, nothing beating chimps or anything else. He was very kind to his animals, but back then, that’s what was done. Even done in zoos. Martin Perkins had a chimp and the chimps would, you know, do their little bicycle, do things like that. And people stand around the moat. And then I started serving, they had little building there that I started serving cotton candy and pop out of.

00:25:43 - 00:25:45

My wife would go in there, and she’s a nice looking woman.

00:25:45 - 00:25:50

And I’m not saying she’s nice today, but I’m saying she was, what’s the word if I get in trouble here?

00:25:50 - 00:25:51

She had, she was nice. She had blonde hair.

00:25:51 - 00:25:53

My wife’s a pretty lady, okay?

00:25:53 - 00:25:54

And she’s still pretty today.

00:25:54 - 00:25:55

Oh who cares?

00:25:55 - 00:26:14

I won’t edit this out, but you can use this, by the way, ’cause I don’t get to tell stories like this very often. So I put her in there with her shorts on, and she served cotton candy. Everybody liked to buy cotton candy there. I don’t know if they were buying cotton candy to look at her. I’m not bragging about her. Just how she looked. I can’t help that. So that they liked the sessions increased, so I hired another girl that was pretty and put her in there too. She sold peanuts.

00:26:14 - 00:26:15

Anyway, that’s what we did.

00:26:15 - 00:26:20

And so I’m just telling you, that’s how we ran the zoo there for three years, because what am I to do?

00:26:20 - 00:26:37

And one last thing that happened there was a tragedy. You, it’s in this, it’s in a, the county there, I’ll think of the county here in a minute, that Sanford was in, not orange county. Volusia County, I think, yeah. The courthouse caught on fire. That’s where the jail was. It’s terrible. The smoking bellowing out the windows. I think it was either six or 12 people died in there.

00:26:37 - 00:26:39

The prisoners, all right?

00:26:39 - 00:26:56

They came out of there with shotguns. They brought them inside the pen of the zoo. That’s where they had to keep them while the dadgum place was burning down. I mean, I mean, these are things I can’t make up. I wish I could. I got a lot of more things I could tell you I don’t want to. I wish I never knew this stuff, but anyway, that’s how, that’s what I did with that zoo. And we were there three years.

00:26:56 - 00:27:09

Great, greatest years of our lives. And then Stan Block approached me about doing this video. Now, when you were at the zoo. Well, let me back up just a minute. You worked for Fowler.

00:27:09 - 00:27:10

Was he?

00:27:10 - 00:27:14

No, I left Jim Fowler and went to work– When you were working for Jim Fowler. Mhm.

00:27:14 - 00:27:17

Was he doing this thing with Marlin at that time?

00:27:17 - 00:27:40

Yes, he was doing something, yeah. Okay, was, were you able to pick up anything from him that later on in your career in television. You were able to go, like you were telling about learning other things. Yeah, remember, and this is important, I don’t get to say this a lot. I never sought TV. I knew Jim was on TV. He was an idol of mine.

00:27:40 - 00:27:41

You get Marlin Perkins, like a lot of us, right?

00:27:41 - 00:27:45

I’d sit there, watch out before Disney. I never missed it. Set my little thing here in Tennessee.

00:27:45 - 00:27:48

You know, I never would miss that, but to be able to work for Jim Fowler, are you kidding me?

00:27:48 - 00:28:09

I never even, I didn’t think that, I mean, I never got out of state of Tennessee or, I mean, I, no kidding, I just get to go to Georgia and to go to Albany, and it was like me going around the world. And then going to Florida was like going twice around the world. But, but no, that’s a good question. I would see the animals and he didn’t then come there and film ever, okay, matter of fact, he didn’t come there very much at all. He would show up ’cause his dad, I loved his dad and his family, and his brothers and everything.

00:28:09 - 00:28:11

But Jim was a, to me, a mega star, you know?

00:28:11 - 00:28:38

So I said yes sir, no sir. And, and to this day I see Jim and he still is, you know, but, it’s funny I never, I never thought, I never dreamed about being on TV. I dreamed about traveling like Marlin Perkins. I will, my dad will tell you, “God, Dad, I gotta go.” He said, “Jackie, you can’t go to Africa.” Are you kidding me? Forget that, you know. I said, “Okay.” So I just went and did my animal stuff. And I just wanted to work in the zoo world. Never once, and your people will tell you, if you know history, did I seek TV. Even today.

00:28:38 - 00:28:59

Even though I do three national television series, and seven national television shows, I don’t have an agent or a manager. Nobody in this business does that. I have Rachel, Kate runs my life, Aaron and Ray, three of us. Now we have 2004, 2,400 employees here at the zoo. One of the biggest the country. But three people do nothing but take care of me. I don’t, I never sought one TV show in my entire lifetime. Never asked to be on TV.

00:28:59 - 00:29:12

I don’t care if I’m watching, if I’m interviewing you and I don’t care if two people see this, I get to communicate with you about what I love. I get to communicate with now the world about what, you wanna get a map over here and see where we’ve been it. But I just do it ’cause I have fun doing it.

00:29:12 - 00:29:14

And you know something?

00:29:14 - 00:29:17

Three-fourths of TV I do, there’s not one penny involved. Not one red dime involved.

00:29:17 - 00:29:21

But promote the zoo world and the Columbus Zoo, and what we all do, the AZA?

00:29:21 - 00:29:25

You can’t, it’s been worth millions. Not to my pocket. I know what I’ve done for the animal world.

00:29:25 - 00:29:32

I will say the word I, you know, I don’t usually say that, but no, I wish, I wish I could sit here and tell you that, oh man, I gotta be like Jim Fowler, you know?

00:29:32 - 00:29:35

Some people wanna be like Steve Irwin, don’t they?

00:29:35 - 00:29:36

Steve was a friend of mine.

00:29:36 - 00:29:40

The problem with that is, is Steve Irwin, I told you I’m gonna jump around, didn’t I?

00:29:40 - 00:30:01

Steve Irwin was a guy, if you knew him, I was the first person to film him almost. And when he was running around his little zoo, about as big as this yurt here. It wasn’t even on an acre, just like that central Florida zoo. But Steve would say he woke up in the mornings, like he’s on 50 Cupps of coffee. The guy was just, man, that was his life. He did pick up animals. Yes he did. He chased them. He was raised that way. The sad thing today is the fact that he’s gone.

00:30:01 - 00:30:25

Everybody, some of these guys on, I won’t name the network or whatever on cable, whatever it is, they want it’s reality TV. I don’t go for it. If you watch my shows. Yes, I’ll try to pick up an animal if something happened but I don’t go chasing animals. You know, I don’t, I don’t try and get bitten, and blood flying every which way. Reality TV, I don’t go for it. It does nothing to educate people. And I’m jumping around, I know that. You asked me about Jim Fowler, you know, and Jim, and Jim was a person back then, and Marlin, and those guys, they did go after the animals.

00:30:25 - 00:30:40

He did do things, but you know, they taught you as well. It’s a much different TV today than it was for those guys. Yes, there was a chimp that helped Marlin open the show. Again, things were different. You know, I try to explain that to people. I admire Marlin Perkins, Jim Fowler and Stan Brock. And so I do Steve Erwin. Some people say Jack, you’re hypocrite.

00:30:40 - 00:30:43

Because you’re saying, you’re not supposed to. Trust me everybody.

00:30:43 - 00:30:44

You know what Steve Erwin gave to conservation?

00:30:44 - 00:31:05

That’s the difference to guys today. He gave over 400,000 acres to conservation around the world. He didn’t live like a monk. He could live like a kajillionaire. He was a brand. I’m not a brand, even I’m not even a brand today. I should have maybe branded myself, but I don’t look at a brand. But Steve was wise enough that he knew that, because he was opening the box through this whole thing, how he did it, but he lived that way. He was raised that way.

00:31:05 - 00:31:26

You guys, you got, you had to meet the guy, Terri and Benny. I just got through doing something with Terri and Benny several weeks ago. You got to meet them to see their heart and their passion in it. The millions of dollars, million, tens of millions they spend on this. Unlike the guys trying to be Steve or Marlin Perkins or Jim Fowler, you know. I don’t try and be like anybody, but Jack Hanna on the farm. I’ve always lived that way. I talk to people all over the place.

00:31:26 - 00:31:52

I do some autographs all over the place. Yes, I miss planes, Rachel will tell you, that they keep trying to stop me from doing things, but people are what makes it happen. Not just Jack Hanna, but why this zoo is here, and why the AZA is accomplished, why you’re sitting here, why you’re both I have lived our dreams. It because the people that visit our zoos and made it that way. Now, when you were talking about, you had the prestigious title of director of Sanford Zoo.

00:31:52 - 00:31:57

What were your daily activities as the prestigious director of the Sanford Zoo?

00:31:57 - 00:31:57

Oh my gosh.

00:31:57 - 00:32:01

Were you an animal keeper or just sit at a desk?

00:32:01 - 00:32:28

Oh I didn’t sit at a desk, but I had a little desk in a bank building on the second floor about two blocks from the zoo ’cause we had no office at the zoo. We had a freezer and cooler, and a fence and a parking lot out of sand. So I parked my little car at the zoo, I walked my two blocks to the bank there, this first something bank. I go to my second floor above a drug store and a restaurant. I go in my little office with one chair. I did buy me another chair, by the way. The desk is about as big as like, I don’t know, one-fourth this room here, I swear to God. They gave me like a storage room probably.

00:32:28 - 00:32:46

But to me, that was the biggest thing in my life. I had an office. They put Zoo Director Jack Hanna sign onto that door. You’d think that I was president United States of America. I swear to God. I’d go like this, I’d walk through there. I didn’t wear a coat and tie, I should’ve probably, but I didn’t, it’s so hot, and I, you know, because I knew I was there. I’d go in the morning, get my little mail stuff.

00:32:46 - 00:33:08

Didn’t have a secretary. Do my stuff, go back over to the zoo, help clean cages, help feed, do speeches for like Kawanas. I don’t care what it was. If there were three people, a little church group of women, I don’t, oh yeah, that’d get me a mynah bird, by the way, Pete, the mynah bird, Petie. I took him to a church. My wife went there cause her father was a minister. ‘Cause the church ladies want me to come there. I said, well, maybe so many ladies there, maybe they’ll donate something.

00:33:08 - 00:33:30

And Petie, I got him from a guy who was a, I don’t know where he hung out, but Petie did say all S H I T, Okay. He’d say he acted like a vacuum cleaner. He did about four or five things. I took him to church. I didn’t think of this. I just took him there along with a tortoise. And I think it had a, a bird of some sort. I don’t know, just three little animals I had. Petie was the bird.

00:33:30 - 00:33:47

It wasn’t, you didn’t have much back then. I took him to this church, and I’m sitting there and talking to women. And I said, “Could you folks,” I started, my wife’s father’s a minister. So the ladies said,”Can we start the Lord’s prayer?” I said, “Yes, Ma’am, go ahead.” Our father who art in heaven. “Aw shit,” the bird went right out loud.

00:33:47 - 00:33:48

And you think I’m kidding?

00:33:48 - 00:34:10

You ask my wife. I literally wanted to die. I learned my lesson then. I said, I finished the Lord’s prayer, they did. And I said, “People, I’m sorry, I,” They did start laughing, thank God, after the prayer. But I felt like a piece of garbage. I said, “I can’t believe this bird did this.” ‘Cause he didn’t, he didn’t say it that often. But he did say it, you know. At that time, Petie had to go back to the, it wasn’t a pet shop, it was a buddy of mine that had several parrots.

00:34:10 - 00:34:20

I said, “I can’t do this with Petie. “He’s just not good for my speeches.” but that’s kind of what happened. I mean, everything happened. I even had a central, you’ve read my book, maybe. At the center for our zoo, I tried to create everything.

00:34:20 - 00:34:23

The Pachyderm Emporium, by the way, the golf store I created?

00:34:23 - 00:34:25

Well, I took the pachyderm, little So Big, I told you, the elephant?

00:34:25 - 00:34:40

I had me a little horse trailer. while you always on a farm, you always check your trailer. You put it all your, you always, no matter who puts your trailer on, you check it. You have to on the farm. Well, Robbie, my buddy Robbie. Robbie got a $4 an hour. His full-time job. I got, I think I got 12,000 a year.

00:34:40 - 00:34:53

I made up to 15 over two years. No healthcare or nothing. Robbie hooks the trailer up. We go out to the golf course. We’re going out there, and I’m going 35 or 40. I make the turn going to golf course like this. Unbelievable, Robbie’s still alive if you want to ask him. The trailer flies off the back of the car.

00:34:53 - 00:35:22

Flies off the back of the car, goes a golf course that way, don’t, thank God it wasn’t a ditch. Goes across the golf course and hits an oak tree. Didn’t hurt the elephant ’cause he flew out the back of the thing, but broke, Robbie, two of his ribs and cracked his arm. But he’s out there squealing. You know, but the elephant’s out running around the golf course, literally, an elephant weighing about, you know, a year-and-a-half-old elephant’s about this big. So, So Big’s strolling around having fun, just didn’t hurt him at all, wrecking the frigging place. And so now I’ve got him in there. So I called the ambulance, got him taken away.

00:35:22 - 00:35:35

He said, “Paul,” I said, “Forget it, Robbie, you didn’t hook it up right.” I finally got the elephant after two-and-a-half hours. It cost me a little over $8,000 for the golf course, $8,000. He got on the greens and we, and I didn’t want to hurt the elephant. I didn’t want to tranquilize the elephant. Just everybody calm down. Let the elephant do his thing.

00:35:35 - 00:35:37

He ain’t going anywhere out here, okay?

00:35:37 - 00:35:55

So that was one of my fiascos at that zoo. I had another one, too, I can’t remember what it was about diarrhea. But that’s another story. I can’t remember it. So you were, you were looking for animals for the zoo. You were approaching people to try and sponsor animals. Right. Oh yeah, and Stan Brock. I had him walk across State of Florida. That was one of my ideas.

00:35:55 - 00:36:10

Remember, he went barefoot all the time. He went on the west coast, outside of below, I’m sorry, above Tampa. I can’t remember the place he started. Like Silver, not Silver Springs. The springs up there. Near (indistinct). He walked from the ocean out of that place. And I followed in my little truck saying Stan Brock Walk Around.

00:36:10 - 00:36:29

We let all the little towns know, and sure enough, he did it, let me get this right. One, two, three. On the fourth day he went into Daytona beach in the ocean and we raised, didn’t do too good. We only raised $11,000. His feet were bloody. That was another one of my promotions, but at least somebody knew about the central for our zoo and how we raised money. He gave all the money, by the way, to the zoo, to the zoo.

00:36:29 - 00:36:33

Now, as you were raising money, did you have a vision for what you wanted to do with this money?

00:36:33 - 00:36:35

Or was it just to bring in more animals?

00:36:35 - 00:36:38

No, no, it wasn’t a vision of the animals. A vision of building the zoo.

00:36:38 - 00:36:39

Like Daisy, my lion, was there, you know?

00:36:39 - 00:37:00

So even though the zoo had a place for Daisy, remember we moved the zoo on July the fourth, we were still building the zoo and I did this. And so we did this about six months before we opened the new central Florida zoo. And so I had a place for Daisy. I don’t know where they used the money, it might’ve been for her outdoor area, you know, which was bailing. You know what bailing is, obviously in the zoo business, the bailing kind of enclosures, which most of them were. And so that was exciting ’cause I could then have Daisy there.

00:37:01 - 00:37:07

And you also were working with Bill Chase at the time?

00:37:07 - 00:37:09

And I knew Bill. Yup.

00:37:09 - 00:37:10

And what was it like to work with him?

00:37:10 - 00:37:12

And how did he either help or?

00:37:12 - 00:37:13

You mean with animals?

00:37:13 - 00:37:30

The animals he had. Bill was the guy who loved animals. Yes, he imported animals, no doubt about that. We both know that, you know, and I go back to this, but I hope you understand. Back then, that is what happened. When my daughter was at St. Jude, she drew a card of a five. She didn’t, we did for her. That card one through five on it.

00:37:30 - 00:37:36

That means she had five different types of chemotherapy, as well as radiation to the brain. At St. Jude, you did that back then.

00:37:36 - 00:37:38

If you drew a card in a two, ’cause it’s research, right?

00:37:38 - 00:37:57

Then you only had two treatments. So we were lucky we drew a five, but we paid the price later, but we have our daughter see. That was back then. Back then they did have spinal taps that, they were held them down. They did a lot of things back then, but people learned. St. Jude is a huge complex now that I’d support 100%. I’ll do all kinds of fundraisers for them.

00:37:57 - 00:37:58

You see where I’m coming from?

00:37:58 - 00:38:20

A lot of things were done back then with animals brought in by people. I think it did do some harming, no doubt about it. But it also did some helping. It helped some zoos like Central Florida Zoo where you could get animals. There wasn’t, I didn’t know if there’s AZA again back then. Okay, I’m sure there might’ve been 1973, ‘4, ‘5. I don’t even know because AZA would never give us, probably, nothing against AZA. I wouldn’t even, I wouldn’t even, I wouldn’t even have called on the central Florida Zoo back then.

00:38:20 - 00:38:43

But because of these kind of folks, yes, it led to pet shops, yes it led to some of these animals, biting people and causing problems. No doubt about that, you know, I had my issues, obviously you heard about my, the terrible thing happen to me. But then again, look what it’s led to today. It has led to some zoos being in business. You can talk to Gary Clark. You can talk to a lot of the guys here in my field that had pets like that when they were younger. You and I, You and I are the same age. You and I both.

00:38:43 - 00:38:50

They may not admit it, but I’ll admit it. Yes, I had some pets. I had a pet lion, I told you. The chimpanzee, I had all kinds of things. I mean, look at my book. You’ll see what it listed for.

00:38:50 - 00:38:51

What was a lion? $300, $400?

00:38:51 - 00:39:09

I don’t know. Elephants were $4,000. I did get an elephant. You know that, I ordered it from Bill Chase, by the way. I used it in my book, I ordered the elephant. My dad went out of town. We had a barn there for our cows and cattle. He would often say, “Butch, we gotta hurry up. “And goes and fix a stall for an elephant.” “You will get in trouble.” “No, he ain’t back for two weeks.” Me and my brother worked our butts off, pouring a concrete floor.

00:39:09 - 00:39:30

Got big old, big old beams, put this thing in there. I had my dad came back two days early. And this is the truth, My dad was 6’6″, played football at Vanderbilt. He said, “How’s everything’s going, you boys are good?” He’d always walk around the farm. He goes up into the barn. I go, “Dad, you know, the barn’s fine. “Ain’t nothing wrong with the barn. “It’s great. Why are you going to Barn?” “I need to see the barn.” “Why do you need to see the barn?” “I just don’t know, I wanna see “if y’all cleaned up stalls and stuff.” Just being fun, having fun, my dad was, he had his beer in his hand.

00:39:31 - 00:39:35

I go, God help me, did to myself and my brother just took off, he just walked away.

00:39:35 - 00:39:38

“Where’s your brother go?” “I don’t know.” “What is that? My God, what is that thing?

00:39:38 - 00:40:00

“You got some 5,000 pound bull coming in here?” Quote, I said, “No, dad, you won’t believe this. “You’re not gonna believe it. “I got a baby elephant coming in two weeks. “I’ve already paid for it.” My dad looked at me and I never, he never, it’s the first time he said no to me. He goes, “Jack, let me explain something to you. “I know nothing about wild animals. “Okay, I do know this, an elephant weighs tons. “An elephant would tear this place apart.

00:40:00 - 00:40:03

“It grows big, don’t you understand? Don’t you get it, Jack?

00:40:03 - 00:40:18

“What you gonna do with the elephant?” “I know Knoxville zoo me.” “The Knoxville Zoo, “they can’t even take care of old diamond. “I know the guy who’s on the board of this thing. “Are you crazy? It’s not coming here.” And when my dad tells me those things, I say yes sir, no. Yes, sir. “I’m gonna to lose the money.” “You’ve just lost some money, sure.

00:40:18 - 00:40:18

“You know what, Jack?

00:40:18 - 00:40:32

“You’ll lose a lot more money in life now. “You really will, it’s taught you a lesson. “You’ve lost it.” I had to call Bill Chase up. I’ve already named him Crumb. I was, I named my baby elephant Crumb. My wife will tell you, she started crying. Car never arrived, but that was Bill Chase. And yet, they were listening to that book.

00:40:32 - 00:40:42

They were, you and I both know that. So good lesson learned. Now, you were getting animals for zoo, you mentioned you were talking to different people to try and get the money.

00:40:42 - 00:40:45

How, was fundraising a natural thing for you?

00:40:45 - 00:40:50

No Difficult. That’s the hardest thing in my life. Even today at the Columbus Zoo.

00:40:50 - 00:40:54

Fundraising is very difficult for me, but you know how we built the, been here 35 years, right?

00:40:54 - 00:41:18

You could ask anybody that works for me, not one time. I have the last six months because I’m now getting older. I now know what I’m trying to do is to whatever I have left. And we all can’t take anything with us, but you know, let me let that the truck pass. I’m sorry about that. They’re building Africa up here right now. And it opens in two weeks, but if it keeps raining, it will be a frigging ark up there, not a zoo. Anyway, so fundraising is the most difficult part of my job.

00:41:20 - 00:41:42

Some people, zoo people find it easy. I never one time in my first 30 years here, just put 29, 28, 29, 28 years. I never asked for one dime. I went to a man named Mr. McConnell, who owns the Blue Jackets. Who’s a very giving person. He’s gone now, his son is my dearest friend. I went there and said, “Mr. Mack,” it took me six weeks to get in to see him. Big old guy.

00:41:42 - 00:42:04

He had the largest cylinder company for propane tanks in the world. Now he’s got 50 companies all over the world, but I went to see him in 1981. Our gorilla’s here at Columbus Zoo. I’m gonna flash forward here in a second if I could, ’cause you asked me about fundraising. Even in central Florida, I would do my fundraising things and the people that, you know, a board I, that little board I had, they’d send out all the pamphlets. I didn’t even know how to do all that stuff. I said, I need to have a pachyderm for an animal. I need to have a race.

00:42:04 - 00:42:22

I just came up with all kinds of things. Easter egg hunt, whatever it was, you know, they had, they drew a little tuition. They did those kinds of things. I didn’t go say, “Hey, I’m sorry, I’m building this. “I need $50,000.” With Mr. McConnell, let me tell Mr. McConnell’s story later, ’cause that deals with Columbus Zoo. But to answer your question about fundraising, very uncomfortable for me.

00:42:22 - 00:42:23

You know what I’ve done all my life?

00:42:23 - 00:42:42

I’ve told the story. I told the story about that Central Florida Zoo. When I got to Columbus, I could tell the story, what we have up here on the water, the potential here with all these farms we could get. We could get, now we have 600 acres, not 90 acres. I said, we got potential here. This thing will work, everybody. And now I go out and tell my story. I went to Mr. Mack, like I said, at Columbia zoo.

00:42:42 - 00:43:20

And I’ll just leave that one example. I went there, I read about him. I went in his office. I said, “Mr. McConnell, “we have the world’s first gorilla born here. “What you, well, that was your big job.” I said, “We have like generations of gorillas, and every, they’re in bars, “and never been outside, seen daylight, “or touch a piece of grass, nothing.” I said, “I think I can build my entire gorilla habitat “for $100,000.” He said, “What?” I said, “Yeah, we’ll take the old elephant, “old elephant house, and we’ll take out part the inside, “and get me some prison bars from a prison I know “that’s shut down in Alabama. “And then I’m gonna go outside, “I’m gonna take the elephant moat out here. “I’m gonna raise the walls on the outside of the moat, “and lower the inside walls. “And then go put the gorillas out there.” He goes, he didn’t even know anybody, now, he looks at me, I go.

00:43:20 - 00:43:26

I never even seen the gorilla and I got this zoo. He looks at me and he goes, “How do you know the gorillas “won’t get out?” Like that. I go to myself, crap.

00:43:26 - 00:43:28

What am I gonna to do?

00:43:28 - 00:43:46

I go, “I know what I’m gonna do, “I’m gonna put a chimpanzee out there first. “‘Cause I know if they get out, “the gorillas can get out probably. “But if the chimpanzee can’t get out, nothing can get out.” “That is excellent, Jack. “You know, I’m gonna help you. “I’m gonna give you $50,000.” I fell out the chair. Did I ask for a dime? No. “I’m gonna give you $50,000. “I’m gonna give you a truck to go get your bars in Alabama.

00:43:46 - 00:44:16

“Can you drive a tractor trailer truck?” “I don’t know, but a guy works for me can drive it.” Here we come up there. Our own staff built those things. Those gorillas came out. Attendance went up that summer 175,000 people. That’s what Mr. McConnell did for me. That was my first time I’d ever asked anybody for a break, you know, you asked me, I didn’t ask him for money. I told him the story and I’ve told stories ever since then, until recently, I tell people that were on a big campaign, for Africa and we’re short, and we raised, I don’t know, about 30-something million from private. And then the rest was done by our capital improvements.

00:44:16 - 00:44:45

So I, I don’t, to this day, you know, the one thing is very important. Whoever’s watching this by the way. It’s what I learned from John Galbreath, the owner of Pittsburgh Pirates that lived here, big, huge family company, whatever. I went to him at 80-something years old, that was after I saw Mr. Mack. I went there to tell him about what I envisioned for our African and other animals. He looked at me ’cause he gave to Mel Dodge, who was like my dad, who was Director of Parks and Recreation. This is who was on the Sewers and Drains Department when I got here, Sewers and Drains uniforms. So I went to see Mr. Galbreath.

00:44:45 - 00:45:08

I’d heard about him. Didn’t ask Mr. Dodge, I should’ve asked him. But I went to sit in his office. I said, told him about the zoo, and everything. I said, “I’m gonna try and build Africa.” He said, “Let me tell you something, young man.” Never got this, forgot this my whole, this is one thing to remember for anybody, people give to people, not causes. I said, “What? I’m sorry, sir.” “Jack, you’re too young, you won’t understand. “People give to the people, not causes. “There are zoos. There are hospitals.

00:45:08 - 00:45:10

“There are people all over the place that need help.

00:45:10 - 00:45:12

“Why do I do, why do I help people?

00:45:12 - 00:45:13

“Why buy what you don’t even notice?

00:45:13 - 00:45:24

“I’ve already given almost a million dollars “to build your new Africa. “You didn’t even know that, did you?” I said, “No sir, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it. “I just got here.” “Well, that’s what it’s about. “I gave to Mel Dodge because Mel Dodge, “I know he’ll take that and do it.

00:45:24 - 00:45:27

“Well, like he’s done for the last 30 years for this city.” And you know what?

00:45:27 - 00:45:50

Remember that whoever’s watching this. All great causes. The animals are great causes. Everything is a great cause. But people give to people, not causes. I will not say I again. Not because he gave to me, he was giving to the Mel Dodge. Mr. McConnell, I think at that point, might have given some to me, but he also saw, as he told me, “the zoo’s for everybody. “Any race, creed or color, any age group, “people in wheelchairs, people anywhere.

00:45:50 - 00:45:57

“That’s why I like the zoo, Jack.” So anyway, people give to people, not causes. I always remembered that. So now I approach people, not the cause.

00:45:57 - 00:46:01

Do you find it now easier for you to get an audience with people?

00:46:01 - 00:46:06

Oh, (laughs), yes. It’s sad, you know. I don’t mean sad, that’s not fair.

00:46:06 - 00:46:11

Yes, it’s been real easy to get audience, but you know something?

00:46:11 - 00:46:31

That a lot of people should have audiences. In my opinion, the zoo profession, as far as the CEOs, directors, whatever you want to call them or, or philanthropy people like we have three of them here that take care of the zoo. Well you know, we started out only six years ago. We bought them from Ohio state, by the way. And, yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m a dog on leash.

00:46:31 - 00:46:33

“Hey Jack, guess what?

00:46:33 - 00:46:46

“You got a free dinner out of this, “but you’re gonna get to go see the chairman of this.” Or “Guess what? We’ll fly you to here.” “Guess what, Jack, you’re gonna do,” it’s like, I get a kick out of it. Because I say, okay, I know I’m like a dog. I get the bone and you go and go out there, and I’m going to tell them the. “All you gotta do is tell them the story, Jack!

00:46:46 - 00:46:47

“You don’t have to ask for a dime, okay?

00:46:47 - 00:47:08

“You just tell the story, “like you try to tell a story, “and you tell him what we’re doing at the zoo, “and then we’ll talk, take over from there.” Every year, I take six couples to Rwanda, where we have a little house there, right near the mountain gorillas. We have a, we now have three schools. Our orphanage was shut down for a school, but we went in there ’cause I knew, went there in 82. And so now those people that go with me, I never ask them for a dime for our schools or nothing.

00:47:08 - 00:47:10

They go, they want to see the mountain gorillas, don’t they?

00:47:10 - 00:47:11

You know, something?

00:47:11 - 00:47:37

They leave there more, just incredible what Rwanda’s done. And they sit there with the people, and they had done, I wouldn’t tell you what they’ve given to our schools. You wouldn’t believe these schools, by the way. And not just that we supply now, all the gorilla tracking, all the gorilla trackers with their health insurance, with their, we’re the first one to ever give them uniforms, rubber boots, everything since the whole genocide happened. We were the first ones to go in there. Even help with Dian Fossey, when she tried to rebuild her place after that terrible thing. They went back in there again, two months later, and ripped all of our $30,000 equipment out of there.

00:47:37 - 00:47:38

I, know what I did then?

00:47:38 - 00:48:06

No more money, we’re done til this thing gets settled. Everyone said “Oh my God, you can’t do that.” The gorillas ain’t gonna die! I’m not gonna keep giving him money when the rebels come in there and rip it apart. So if, so, I guess what I’m saying is, I take them to Rwanda, I just tell them the story. Like I, like, I take people to New York if they wanna go watch one of my shows. You know, they say they, they bought auction gold, in New York with Jack Hanna for 10,000 bucks. It goes right into our conservation fund. So, you know, again, I don’t believe anybody pays a dime going with me.

00:48:06 - 00:48:34

You know, they’re crazy going with me going on safari because I have no idea. I couldn’t tell you what a, I’m serious, I’m pretty bright now, but after filming for 40, 20, 30 years animals. But I go there and just talk to them about animal world in a nice way. They, some people go on safari with me and watch my filming and they come back and say, “Hey Jack, you know, can we help with Africa or something?” “Yeah, I don’t care, go talk to those guys.” So that’s how I do it today. Yes, yes, I’m used to raise money. Well, go back to Sanford for a minute. You said you had a board of directors there.

00:48:34 - 00:48:36

They kind of let you do what you wanted to do or?

00:48:36 - 00:48:43

That’s a good question. Yeah, because they just wanted a zoo downtown. Been there since 1920-something, so just take care of it.

00:48:43 - 00:48:46

That’s a great, you know what it was here, at the zoo when I first got here?

00:48:46 - 00:49:01

We had more fun up here than a barrel of monkeys. Now I look back on it. We had a board, yes, and, but the zoo was 15 miles out of town. No one really cared what went on. You could see that when I got here, but you know something, the hardest thing I did was the staff. The staff were much older than me. Oh, here comes another.

00:49:01 - 00:49:04

I think he had three directors, three directors in two years, right?

00:49:04 - 00:49:36

Oh, here’s another, here’s this young guy. Let’s see what he does, had a union here, and I’m not really a union person, but the point is that they should’ve had a union, the way they were treated, you know. They weren’t hurting them or nothing, It’s just no one cared, sewers and drains, you know, here’s this little here, and all this kind of stuff. I just, I just worked. I worked actually, you know this, for five-and-a-half, or six years, I never took a day off. Not one day. Christmas, I would leave here with my family at four o’clock in the afternoon. I took one hour before five, I wasn’t on the clock. I left here at four o’clock, got Knoxville about 11, 12 at night.

00:49:36 - 00:49:59

Got that, had my breakfast with my family, my brother and sister lived there, had our Christmas opening, had our lunch, got back in the car and got back here by five o’clock Christmas day. That was the first, maybe it was longer than six years, I know it was six years for sure. But that’s what it took up here. ‘Cause they tested me every way they could test me, the older guys. You know, they wouldn’t talk to me. Then finally, I got to know a few of them. I would go out have a beer with maybe one of them. I got to, couldn’t get anyone to go out with me.

00:49:59 - 00:50:18

And finally they saw that I was just gonna, by God, help them. I got them new uniforms and said Columbus zoo, not Sewers and Drains. That’s how I started. They called me Traprot Brown, because I took all these buildings that were falling down and painted them. I said, the bathrooms had to be cleaned. It wasn’t the animals. If you think about a zoo, everybody, the animals really have never suffered in the zoo ever. And I can say that because I’ve visited some zoos, that don’t have the money.

00:50:18 - 00:50:45

It’s the people and the visitor that suffer. The staff that suffer. The animals, yes, they may have mud, they may be lousy accommodations, but most of them look pretty healthy. I’ve never been to many zoos in this country where the animals just sit there, except roadside things, where they’re just sitting there dying. I’ve never seen that really, but I’ve seen other terrible things with the infrastructure. So when I go to a zoo myself, even back then I was taught. My dad said, “Jack.” I always learned this when a little boy. “Something can be old, but it can be cleaned.

00:50:45 - 00:51:00

“Remember that, Jack, it could be old and clean. “So do something about the zoo, paint it.” He came up here once, he said, “This place is a wreck. “Can’t you just paint these buildings?” They called me Traprot Brown. I took every building this place and painted it brown. I was this beautiful light brown color. Like these things here. That’s what my name. They put it all over my door.

00:51:00 - 00:51:05

And then the help started. ‘Cause I let them, everything we built back then, was done in house, everything.

00:51:05 - 00:51:07

Now, today, you kidding me?

00:51:07 - 00:51:14

I dunno, I like architects. Don’t get me wrong, architects, you didn’t run the zoo. I’m just saying that a million dollars to design something.

00:51:14 - 00:51:16

I can’t, I still can’t get over it, okay?

00:51:16 - 00:51:35

A parking lot, the parking lot out there, that’s the largest one in Ohio, I think. Someone says it is. Well, second for sure. That cost me, cost the zoo, $9 million to build it. I said, “You’re crazy! “I don’t wanna build a dumb parking lot. “Park on the gravel.” “Jack, keep quiet, “we’re telling you the way these thing’s go. “We have to have the parking lot.” Now, we ain’t no room in that parking lot. So again, I paint everything.

00:51:35 - 00:51:37

I fixed up the bathrooms.

00:51:37 - 00:51:40

And when I go to, when I come back from out of town, like I did yesterday, what’d I do?

00:51:40 - 00:52:01

She’ll tell you. I went to Africa, I made a few suggestions. They can do it or not do it. I went and saw the bathrooms. I just was a little late here, ’cause I wanted to go see the bathrooms in my office. I just, I watch things like that. I don’t have to worry about the animals. I have to worry about the infrastructure here and how my, first thing I go to, when I come back to the zoo, and you can ask anybody, all my life, we never had a human resource director.

00:52:01 - 00:52:18

Maybe when it started really growing about 15 years ago. That lady is incredible. We took her away from Honda. I go in there and she’ll, I even, I haven’t seen Kate, let’s say I’m filming for three or four weeks. I don’t go to the office. I’ll run right in her office and spend 15 minutes or an hour in there. Tell me what’s happening in the zoo. I wanna know what’s happening with employees, I wanna know what’s happening, people are excited or happy.

00:52:18 - 00:52:36

Tell me, I don’t even run the zoo, by the way. But I want to know what’s happening. Then I go to my office because the gist is in that human resource office of the people work here. A lot of people preach it, they don’t practice it in this, in this business. The last thing I’ll say and we’ll get back to it, I’m sure, is the fact that, and I think it’s a lot better, but we have a long way to go in the zoo world.

00:52:36 - 00:52:39

You know what, people say this sustainability program, how are we gonna work together?

00:52:39 - 00:52:41

We don’t even work together in the state of Ohio.

00:52:41 - 00:52:43

I love all those other zoo directors, okay?

00:52:43 - 00:52:57

But we have a hard time even getting sustainability in our own zoos. They practice, they’re preaching things. They don’t practice what they preach, that’s all. And I’m gonna do a lecture before I retire someday, and try, it’s getting much better, don’t get me wrong. We still have, not the jealousy we have.

00:52:57 - 00:53:01

We still have that thing of, well, do we want the wilds?

00:53:01 - 00:53:18

We had the 10,000, we were able to send some animals here, oh my God, that, they’re gonna get PR out of that. We don’t care about, I’ve preached to my people. We don’t care about the PR to the wilds. I could give a rat’s you know what. If they even, anybody says anything out there. It’s 10,000 acres sitting, everybody. So either bring it or take them to California. I don’t care where you take them to, take them to White Oak.

00:53:18 - 00:53:29

This is the other place, by the way. But you see where I’m coming from. I’m not knocking what we do, we’ve done a great job. All, everybody has, but we have to really get serious about this, and really start working together very much closer, very quickly. I know we got SSPs.

00:53:29 - 00:53:34

And then we got EMPAs, all these big terms, and it is important, but you know something?

00:53:34 - 00:53:57

Our zoo visitor, excuse my language again, but you can edit it, didn’t give a rat’s ass about SSPs. They don’t come to learn about SSPs. That’s our job. My daughter’s brain tumor. I didn’t ask the doctor if he was going through the foretex, ortex, all this stuff. I just said, “Doctor, is she gonna live?” I didn’t ask him how he was doing the surgery. Our visitors don’t care about coming here and learning about all the SSPs and all that stuff. Yes, our board does.

00:53:57 - 00:54:15

Yes, you better darn well do it, our curators, and you, the director, whoever it is. And yes, it’s serious business, but don’t try and preach that to the public. They don’t want, they don’t, they want you to produce the animals so they can learn and love about them. It’s a real simple concept, it really is. But for some zoos, it’s a hard concept to accept. I’m not saying Jack Hanna’s right at all.

00:54:15 - 00:54:17

I’d done some wrong things, all right?

00:54:17 - 00:54:35

I do know one thing, that this, up here at this zoo, people come here for one word, and we done a lot of money on research on this. We had a survey and you can add this where you want to. I have to go through this stuff while I’m, ’cause I’m AT and T, I told you. Anyway, so we had a survey done for two years. Why do you come to, six questions. Now, I may not remember all of them.

00:54:35 - 00:54:39

To have fun at the zoo, To see the animals, to have your picnic, to be safe?

00:54:39 - 00:54:42

There was two other, I’m sorry, I don’t remember what they were.

00:54:42 - 00:54:44

Do you know what it was by 70-something percent?

00:54:44 - 00:55:08

To have fun with our family. Yes, the animals were second, but that tells you something. Not because we’re up here, some circus run round up this place. You can look at our book and see the 62 projects, millions of dollars a year we give it to animals in the wild. Half a million just now last year or two years ago with the polar bears. So we’re proud of that, but we have to get them through the gate. If you can’t get them to the gate, then you can’t teach all this other stuff you want to know. And the last thing I’ll say, education is a number one priority pursuit.

00:55:08 - 00:55:35

Not conservation. It sounds radical, oh my God, Jack’s a nuts. I’m not nuts at all. Having traveled the world. Do you think I’d go to Rwanda and these countries I’ve been going to for 30 years and tell them, “Guy, well you can’t kill the gorilla.” That’s terrible, when they’ve been doing it for thousands of years because their body parts are a medicine to some of those people. The hands were used for ashtrays. But now in Rwanda, you don’t see any at all. It’s taken us 15 years to train these guys, the anti-poachers to be on the unit. I can go to Gabon, I just left there filming for four-and-a-half weeks, which not many people know where Gabon is.

00:55:35 - 00:55:55

I didn’t even know about Gabon. In animal wildlife. Incredible. The president invited me there because he wants to start ecotourism, but he didn’t understand why we should save the forest elephants. He understands, but that’s their culture, they eat the animals. So it takes a while to do that. It’s education. People in our own country don’t know about conservation. The number one thing in the world is education. So you come here in a fun way.

00:55:55 - 00:56:32

You educate them in a zoo and they’ve left here going, “Golly, I didn’t know the giraffe “had the same number of vertebrae we had. “I saw that up there at the zoo, I didn’t know.” And they came here for Dora the Explorer, or Spiderman, or the light show, or the Easter egg hunt or the pile of ice cream. And we have something every weekend from May until September, not taking away from the animals, but we’re trying to get them in the gates to teach them about the animals. And I’ll sit there and debate it with any zoo person in the entire world. And a lot, people, most all of them are much brighter than I am. All I know is what works. And I’ve seen the results of it here at the Columbus Zoo. And if you want to take a tour today, it’s not the best time of year, obviously, about another two weeks, it will be magnificent, but you’ll see what we’ve done here.

00:56:32 - 00:56:51

And we’ve had fun doing it. And we want our visitor to have fun doing it. And we want to work with everybody, all the other zoos, except I don’t wanna get in this one. The guy in Denmark. We pulled all of our breeding loans from Denmark. We also get ready to put all of our breeding loans from European zoo union. We’re not dealing with anyone who has anything to do with that concept of of animals. And I’ll explain more of that later.

00:56:51 - 00:57:05

Okay, now. But you can add to that, that thing about how I feel about zoos. I’m sure you can add that in. I don’t wanna repeat it, about why we’ve been successful at the Columbus zoo. It’s F U N, that’s why. Now we, you’re very eloquent when you’re talking about your philosophy.

00:57:07 - 00:57:15

Was some of this, again, just to go back to Sanford for a minute, where you were dealing with the press and dealing with the media, were you picking things up from them?

00:57:17 - 00:57:17


00:57:17 - 00:57:20

later on with your message?

00:57:20 - 00:57:25

Yes, when, is this crackling?

00:57:28 - 00:57:30

On my collar, over there?

00:57:30 - 00:57:32

Did you stop it?

00:57:32 - 00:57:34

No, I didn’t stop. Okay, so please stop.

00:57:34 - 00:57:37

What is it that you need?

00:57:37 - 00:57:40

Be as you were, progressing there in Sanford?

00:57:40 - 00:58:05

Yeah, obviously we learned a lot from, from the media. You know, you learn by, by being basically honest from the standpoint that this camel died, or this cat died or something like that. Obviously, you know, you have to go out and tell them it died. Some zoos don’t do that. You know, even today, some people try to hide certain things. If I’m at the zoo, something happens, the media knows about it within 30 seconds. So I learned that back then, obviously. I said, “Oh my God.” I can’t, I don’t know what happened.

00:58:05 - 00:58:34

Nothing happened too major. It was like a deer or something, you know, I think it broke its leg, hit a fence or something. And they said, “Oh my God, what are we gonna do with it?” And I said, “Well, we got to call somebody and tell them because the Sanford Herald is like three buildings down. And so I learned it that way that you just try and be honest with the media, you try to speak from the heart. And when something bad happens, you have to tell them. You know, it’s that, it’s not easy to do. When something good happens, they love the good stuff, but like all media today, they also just go nuts on the bad stuff. And I mean, it’s something that’s hard for me to still accept.

00:58:34 - 00:59:03

We’re going through it right now with our levy, you know. We’ve done nothing wrong up here. We’re being questioned by a lot of the taxpayers, not taxpayers, a party out of this country. I won’t go into it. And that’s why today’s gonna be a little shorter day because we had to take care of something that takes the future of our zoo. But the media wants, a lot of times, bad things, but they do like to get, especially in Columbus, Ohio, the media has built this zoo. They’ve been so good to us here. The newspaper was founded the Columbus Zoo in 1926, the Wolf family, bringing a deer and some circus animals up here in 1926.

00:59:03 - 00:59:11

They’ve supported the zoo both financially and with their papers, we all positive, even negative. Everything we’ve done, we’ve kept it open. And I learned that at Sanford.

00:59:13 - 00:59:19

When ultimately you left Sanford zoo, you left because bigger horizons?

00:59:19 - 00:59:34

Exactly, Stan Brock had this film he wanted me to promote. I’d opened the zoo up. I saw an opportunity to Knoxville to go back as well. So I went back to Knoxville where I was raised in the mountains there. And, well, you’d mentioned the forgotten wilderness. Yeah, the movie.

00:59:34 - 00:59:36

Were you able to have hands-on?

00:59:36 - 00:59:58

Did that get you, just wondering. No, I just, I just helped him film a segment or two, during while I was in the Central Florida Zoo, like I helped him with the anaconda once, and almost took these two fingers off. I knew nothing about snakes. I wasn’t even on TV. He just asked me to help with my animals. He was filming in the jungle there, and he also went to South America. I didn’t go with him. He filmed his, most of it over there, but he had to have a snake scene, or another little scene with a capybara, or something, I can’t remember who it was.

00:59:58 - 01:00:10

And so I’d help with that a little bit. That’s all I ever did. Now again, I didn’t want to be on TV. I never was on TV. I just helped him take, get his animals and stuff. And then, then he got there, he said, “Jack, you’re a good salesman. “You wanna help sell this movie?” They called it four- walling. Remember Grizzly Adams or something like that.

01:00:10 - 01:00:26

The old four-walling. They called it four-walling. They go into town, they buy all the theaters and show the movie. Well, we were in there two or three times, two or three years too late. And I went in there. I had the theater sold and everything, but no advertising dollars, we had. And so I did that for about six months. And then of course the Knoxville thing happened, all that.

01:00:26 - 01:00:29

So, Knoxville Zoo, they asked you to be, you’re on the board?

01:00:29 - 01:00:48

Mhm. At the Knoxville zoo, and . . . We go back there because of Stan Brock. Then our daughter gets very ill. We’re on the board doing all that kind of stuff. Ended up at St. Jude. This is where Columbus comes in, that many people haven’t written. All of a sudden, a friend of mine I met at the pet shop, Stanley Felix Smulowitz, lived in New Jersey.

01:00:48 - 01:00:56

He was going to University of Tennessee. This is back in ’72. So it shows you about friendship. He goes up there. He, we keep stay in touch. He knows I’m back in Knoxville.

01:00:56 - 01:00:57

Then he knows Julie’s got leukemia and cancer, right?

01:00:57 - 01:01:22

He says, “Jack, I know you’re there.” By the way, I was selling real estate too in Knoxville. My buddy that had helped me with the plane. He said, “Jack, let me help you keep you afloat here, “do this.” And so he caught me. He’d catch me all the time, reading animal books as well. I got my real estate license. I could sell anything. I mean, I tried, but I, you know, there wasn’t much for sale (laughs), but I did best I could do. And so I’d be reading these animal books, and then ’cause Julie was sick, so I was doing that kind of thing.

01:01:22 - 01:01:31

Stan Smulowitz sent me a little clipping from the Columbus Dispatch. His sister went to Ohio State. Columbus Zoo, looking for a zoo director. I still, I can’t find the little clipping, newspaper.

01:01:31 - 01:01:37

I got all excited because I did my research, because then Columbus looking for a zoo director?

01:01:37 - 01:01:41

And they had one of four hospitals treat her cancer in the country. You talk about fate of the good Lord.

01:01:41 - 01:01:42

You kidding me?

01:01:42 - 01:02:16

I went there, flew up there, Stan Brock had a little old plane back then, by the way, a little single engine. He said, “Jack. I’ll fly you up there.” Okay. We were buddies. We hadn’t talked to each other in years, but we communicate every once in a while by letters. So Stan flew me up in his little plane. You saw in the book, I don’t wanna get into whole thing. I’m outside of Columbus, “Where’s the zoo?” “We don’t have a zoo.” Okay. We circled. He said, I said, “Are you sure it’s not Columbus, Montana, “or Columbus, Georgia, or Columbus somewhere?” “There’s 14 Columbuses.” “Here’s the letter, Stan. it’s on Riverside drive.” So I tell that guy that, and he goes, “We checked around here. “Some kind of park up there, I don’t think it’s a zoo.” We landed the plane at Columbus airport, get in the cab, swear to God, you ask Dan Brock.

01:02:16 - 01:02:36

“We don’t have a zoo.” I said, “You got a zoo, here it is, “right here’s the address.” He said, “I never seen the animals up there, “but I know there’s a park up there.” Quote, zoo, taxi cab driver. They drive me up here. I look around this place, met with some of the trustees. Did a little quick interview, go back home. You know, I ain’t gonna get the job. So then they called me back for a second interview. I did that one.

01:02:36 - 01:02:39

And in that interview, that second one, I said, “You know something, everybody?

01:02:39 - 01:02:56

“I love it. I see the potential out here on this lake here.” I said, “This is unbelievable.” They said, “What do you know about, “what’s the difference between a black and white rhino?” I’ll never forget the question as long as I live. Oh man, I tell you what, ’cause we didn’t have any rhino at Knoxville, or anywhere I’d ever been. I said, “Black and white rhino, “They’re both the largest land mammal in the world.” “That’s good. That’s good.” I can see them.

01:02:56 - 01:02:59

“What’s the difference in a black and white?” I said, “Well, you know what?

01:02:59 - 01:03:12

“The black one, I’m sure lives around a lot more mud “than the white one, “and I’m sure it’s a little bit different, “more grayer than,” Oh my God, They sat there like this. I was in, you know, with the black and the nose, the whole thing, didn’t know it. They said, “That’s very good. That’s very good.

01:03:12 - 01:03:15

“What about gorillas?” I said, “Never seen a gorilla.” “You never seen a gorilla?

01:03:15 - 01:03:43

“And we had the first gorilla in the world here, “and have more than one, “only one with three generations now.” I said, “That’s good.” I said, “but I can learn real fast about gorillas. “I’ll know more next time you get me up here.” I said, “By the way, if you hire me, “I’ll come here for six months.” The trustees didn’t believe this. “I’ll come here for six months. No contract. “I’ll take 12 to $15,000 a year. “I’ll moved my own family. “No health insurance, nothing you have to do for me. “All right? Nothing. “Just give me a chance for six months is all I ask you.” And the didn’t even, there are only three guys alive today, that were there at that time.

01:03:43 - 01:03:53

And they’ll tell you what I said to them. I went back home, two weeks later, “Come back up here with your family.” I said, “Dad, I’m gonna be hired!” I come back with my family. I go down there when the zoo was only that little area along the lake over there.

01:03:53 - 01:03:55

I sat there for, they had a meeting going on, right?

01:03:55 - 01:04:21

I went and said hello to them. They sent me back out there. I was there for a half hour, hour, hour-and-a-half. My wife says, “You’re not getting hired. “Jack, this is terrible.” I said, “Let’s wait a little while longer.” Two-and-a-half hours, they come out and get me, and said, “Would you take a boat ride, “on the side of the bell out there, ” would you just take a boat ride with your family?” I go, “Wow, this is unbelievable. “I can’t believe we came up here for this.” I come back, they finally call me, after three-and-a-half hours out there, and said, “Jack, we’re gonna give you a chance.” You know, I think they met my wife and liked her better than me. I said, “Okay, just give me a chance, that’s all I ask you. “And you won’t even have to come to me.

01:04:21 - 01:04:36

“I’ll quit before you have to tell me to quit.” And after six months I went and told her. I said, “You know what? I love it here. “I hope I’ve done the right thing by cleaning, “and fixing this whole place up, “and getting your employees “a little bit excited more about it, “and changing uniforms.” They said, “Yeah, will you sign a two-year contract?” I was, “Are you kidding me?” I called my dad and went crazy.

01:04:36 - 01:04:37

He said, “What’d you do now?

01:04:37 - 01:04:40

“You didn’t surely tell them $15,000?” I said, “No, you won’t believe it.

01:04:40 - 01:04:44

“I told them 20 wold be good, “but I’ll do 18.” “Why do you keep telling people 20, “you tell them you’ll do 18?

01:04:44 - 01:05:00

“Don’t you understand what you’re doing?” I said, “No, they gave me a car, Dad.” “What kinda car?” “It’s a city car, it’s only got 75,000 miles on it.” “Oh my God, They gave you a car. 75,000 miles.” Second week I get this, sign this contract, I’m going across O’Shaughnessy Dam, the door falls off the back of the car, falls off. Now we’re into October, November.

01:05:00 - 01:05:01

It’s cold, right?

01:05:01 - 01:05:20

I have two, three kids now. All of a sudden they see me driving around with a cardboard in my car. Mel Dodge, parks, I mean, dad who became like my dad, He found out about a month later. He goes, “Jack, go down there and pick you out a car “at the city pound there. “Get you one of those dang new station wagon, “white one, okay?” I, again, you could, I thought I’d gotten the world. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.

01:05:20 - 01:05:21

He said I can have a car?

01:05:21 - 01:05:36

Oh my God. I went down and picked out the same station wagon I had, obviously a new one. And then I was just the biggest kinda thing going. You know, I had me a car. I had me a job. I had everything. Nobody even cared what we did up here, back to what you were saying. Nobody even cared what we did up here. I mean, we did. I wouldn’t tell what we did.

01:05:36 - 01:05:39

I mean, we worked hard. There were no hours. There was no 40-day work weeks.

01:05:39 - 01:05:42

There was 60, 70 hour work weeks and when it snowed, you know what I did?

01:05:42 - 01:05:45

I gave them all snow days. Finally, after the second year, Mel Dodge found out about it.

01:05:45 - 01:05:46

He said, “What are you doing?

01:05:46 - 01:06:11

“Who you sending home?” I said, “I’m sending home everyone, “except the keeper that’s gotta feed at five o’clock, Mel. “Because they’ve worked 60.” “Jack, it’s illegal. “You can’t be working people up there 60 hours. “How long have you been doing this?” “I don’t know, a year-and-a-half or so. “Everybody loves it, Mel, don’t worry about it, okay?” “The union’s following it, but, they’re not many in it. “They’re like working for me.” He said, “Oh dear God.” He had to come and meet with me what the law was. So then I had to go back to hours. Well, we’re getting to, I want to jump into the Columbus Zoo, obviously.

01:06:11 - 01:06:16

What, but tell me about the freedom for animals fund.

01:06:18 - 01:06:20

God bless it. How’d you even find that out?

01:06:20 - 01:06:21

Where’d you see that?

01:06:21 - 01:06:28

Well, we have researchers. You know, I can hardly remember Freedom for Animals. I don’t know if Stan helped me with that, or who helped me with that. I wish I remembered that.

01:06:29 - 01:06:31

Was it something I started here at the zoo?

01:06:31 - 01:06:33

It must’ve been, at the Columbus Zoo, or did I start before then?

01:06:33 - 01:06:34

Or did Stan Brock start that?

01:06:34 - 01:06:36

Help me. It was before.

01:06:36 - 01:06:37

Was that Stan Brock? What year was that?

01:06:37 - 01:06:38

In Knoxville?

01:06:38 - 01:07:07

Knoxville. You had just gone to Knoxville and were part of the trustees and I think it was Stan Brock, but I don’t know. Yeah, yeah, I knew it was that didn’t go very far. No, that, I know you read about it, but Freedom for Animals Fund was just a thing Stan wanted to do. I tried to help him, but you just, there wasn’t a, there wasn’t a home base there then, to do anything with that. I know for, I had t-shirts and all that stuff made up, but it didn’t last for three months. That was Stan’s idea, and I was trying to help him basically. And yes, it was, it didn’t do well.

01:07:07 - 01:07:10

So what strengths do you think you brought to the Columbus Zoo?

01:07:10 - 01:07:24

You’re obviously a hard worker. Yeah, it’s very simple. It’s the golden rule I brought here that turned the zoo around. Do unto others as they do unto you. You know, that’s all I did. I always treat people, and she will tell you, anybody that works for me. I don’t even own this zoo. I have an open door policy.

01:07:24 - 01:07:57

I don’t care if it’s a guy like Ronnie Jones that drove the truck to pick up the animal feces here for 35, 36 years. He retired like two years ago. Ronnie only came to my office one time in 36 years ’cause everybody knows I have an open door policy. He said, “Jack, you know, all I wanted to do is, “I’ve been able to cause I’ve worked my way up here “for the last 11 years, “to go to church on Sunday with my family. “And now they’ve changed my hours to on Sunday.” We had a new guy over there. Took me maybe 30 seconds. I called the guy up. ‘Cause I don’t interfere usually with, you know, decisions made by the people that are in the head, the head of their divisions or their maintenance, or whatever it is.

01:07:57 - 01:08:06

I said, “I want you to go down to human resources, “and I want you to change that. “He’s going to go to church on Sundays. “He’s been here 30-something years. “That’s all he’s ever asked for from me “in 30-something years.

01:08:06 - 01:08:07

“Are you kidding me? Why did you do this?

01:08:07 - 01:08:08

“Are you trying to make a point to him?

01:08:08 - 01:08:11

“Are you trying to make a point, “oh ’cause you’re the new maintenance guy?

01:08:11 - 01:08:15

“The head of maintenance, you go, “you’re gonna show him what he can do?” He looked at me, he couldn’t answer.

01:08:15 - 01:08:19

He said, ” Um, Mr. Hanna, I made mistake.” “Okay, I accept that. No problem, all right?

01:08:19 - 01:08:46

“But don’t pull that kind of crap ever again.” You know, that’s the kind of, the way I operate this zoo. These guys will tell you. If somebody called me up right now, and told me to go down here and watch the, whatever it is or clean something, I’m not, because, big deal Jack Hanna’s cleaning something. You know, I don’t care who it is, who works here. Whether it’s a 2400 employees up from what, 40 or something when I first got here. I don’t know everybody, now the frustrating I have right now in this zoo, is that I don’t know everybody. You know, it’s impossible. I don’t even know the full-time staff.

01:08:46 - 01:09:20

But back then when I got here for the first 12 years, I knew every single person, every hole, every drain, everything here ’cause I wanted to learn about every little thing so somebody couldn’t tell me that can’t be done. I cannot stand the words can’t, I do not, I’m not. Dad taught me this. “You never say cant until you try it. “Now, obviously you can’t jump off a building, Jack, “because you can’t survive.” I mean there’s certain common things, but don’t anybody come and tell me that, for example, I got many examples, that this zoo can’t survive up here because it’s too far from Columbus. I said, “You’re crazy. “It’s on a body of water. “You’ve got the opportunity to acquire land up here.” There wasn’t anything around this place.

01:09:20 - 01:09:55

Nothing but farms when I got here, not one thing. It was a drive from Columbus. It was like a days, God, you go to the zoo, you’re like going to Cincinnati. But then we kept going, and we kept explaining people, that it wasn’t that far to come up for a picnic, had a little special days. And I just treated everybody, I don’t care who it was, or what organization it was, or somebody want to have a little company party, or we couldn’t even get anybody to have a funeral up here. But back then I had to do everything I could to get people up here, but I treated everybody the same. The guy that was the head of maintenance, or the guy that worked hammering nails, all of us were the same. See, now they had her uniforms.

01:09:55 - 01:10:20

It might’ve said curator. It might’ve said mammals or reptiles or birds. But then again, I would also let people that’ve said, “Jack, can we try and work with the birds, “or other animals or the mammals or whatever?” “Yeah, sure, you can. “You know, you can go get, “try that one for six months to a year, “and then let’s see what your supervisor’s say “and we’ll try that.” No one’s allowed to say no, he can’t come over here. You know, let him have a chance. Sometimes they go in there for two weeks, and then, “I don’t really like this. “I don’t like taking care of the reptiles. “I think I’m going to go back to the birds.” So what you’ve done, oh yeah.

01:10:20 - 01:10:23

One thing I did here, I must say it’s caused the success of the zoo.

01:10:23 - 01:10:24

You know what I did?

01:10:24 - 01:10:52

I listened, not just to my little staff meeting. I couldn’t have all 40 of them, but one guy Paddy Peters married Lois Greene, Paddy’s super was Bill Cupps. Bill didn’t have an education, basically. He’d been here for almost 20-something years. We had the polar bears over there, in these terrible places. He said, “Jack.” And he, oh the cheetah’s too, by the way. he ended up bringing, about several years after he let me do this, probably more cheetah’s than any zoo in the country. He said, “Jack,” he didn’t have book smarts, but he knew the animals.

01:10:52 - 01:11:15

He said, “Jack, let me take the polar bear. “Let me have a big old piece of pipe from downtown.” One of there big old things that sewers run through. “Let me put that piece of pipe under the earth, “I got a tractor and we’ll go bury it. “We’ll put my little camera in there, “and we’re gonna like that mother go back in there.” “You know we have these two polar bears, “and they aint got anywhere to go, “except a little den back here, “about three feet wide.” “Go ahead, Bill.” I got Mel to get me the thing. He’s got the tractor, dug the hole, put the camera in. We bought at Kmart somewhere for 25, $30.

01:11:15 - 01:11:17

He set the thing up. What’s he do?

01:11:17 - 01:11:26

I wish I could show you the footage. I’ll find it. It’s hidden in the archives here. He had a baby polar bear being born, being raised, and that baby polar bear comes out in the springtime.

01:11:26 - 01:11:27

And guess what that summer was?

01:11:27 - 01:11:33

Over a hundred-and-something thousand people because I listened to Bill Cupps. Somebody that nobody would listen to. The cheetahs, same way.

01:11:33 - 01:11:36

“Jack, can you take that place down there, “along the lake there?

01:11:36 - 01:11:48

“And there’s nothing back of that thing, “but just storage and garbage around this place.” “Sure, take that thing, put that big old fence around it.” I got the fence donated by Paul Peterson up here, put the cheetahs back there, he started bringing cheetahs like crazy.

01:11:48 - 01:11:50

Then what do we do with the elephant stuff?

01:11:50 - 01:12:17

All the, all the dung, all this stuff here for years, they were dumping it over here on our beautiful golf course. The number one rated golf course in the state of Ohio, public right now, by the way. But when they went back there to turn it all around 10 years ago, they were digging back in there and putting these new holes in. “What is this stuff by God’s sakes?” There was a, there was some, like major trash back in there. It had been going back in there since the 20 years I’ve been here. ‘Cause I didn’t even have money to go to the dump. I didn’t do nothing wrong. I buried it. I buried nice dirt over the top of it, and grass grew and it looked so beautiful.

01:12:17 - 01:12:39

I never thought somebody go through there and build a dadgum golf course. I got in trouble. Another thing I did. We always did this, we put up our own beautiful sign, a big old red sign. A lady, a $30,000 sign she donated to me. She said, “When do you wanna put this up?” I said, “Let’s put it up about six o’clock tonight.” ‘Cause I, we’d already dug the holes. She was, “You sure it’s all right?” I said, “Sure, it’s all right, it’s right there. “Right there where that zoo entrance is.” I put that sign up, it was there for 20-something years.

01:12:39 - 01:12:43

The sign was 17 feet in the right-of-way of that road down there. They come in here.

01:12:43 - 01:12:43

When did they redo that road?

01:12:43 - 01:12:44

Three years ago, Graham?

01:12:44 - 01:12:45

Three years ago, they redid the road out there?

01:12:45 - 01:13:02

A guy comes up, gives it, goes nuts up here. The state guy goes, “Who would ever put that thing “in 17 feet in a right-of-way here?” “I don’t know, Jack Hanna must’ve done it.” So then they, I’m not in town. They get me on the phone. Big deal, I didn’t do the measure of 17, I didn’t know what the hell 17 feet was. That sat and there wasn’t no wrecks out there for 17 years.

01:13:02 - 01:13:03

Why is he going nuts right now?

01:13:03 - 01:13:26

Because he has to take the sign out and redo a whole plan he had, because he thought that’s where the whole road couldn’t have gone there. So it cost him about, I don’t know, a hundred thousand bucks to redo their road. What I didn’t, again, we did things like that back then, because y’all had fun doing it. You know, I wasn’t trying to break the law. So that’s how we all worked together. You know, that’s why we succeeded here. We cannot have succeeded here. Not because of me, because we just all were the same.

01:13:26 - 01:13:45

I’ll always believe that. I, we’re all the same at the Columbus Zoo today, as we were 35 years ago. Now, when you were director and starting director at Columbus Zoo, you were in this first six months, you’re trying to prove yourself. You know, you were the guy for them. Once you knew that you were the guy.

01:13:45 - 01:13:52

Did you have some vision that now I can start to do some things I’ve been thinking about?

01:13:52 - 01:13:55

What was it to get people to come there?

01:13:57 - 01:14:19

At least the trustees knew that I was doing something different than the previous ones were doing. However, golly, they helped me. The veterinarian that went to Phoenix that passed away. Jim, Jim Savoy, Jim Savoy was here. Lee Simmons was here, went to Ohio State. He was a veterinarian, Lee Simmons, Jimmy Savoy’s a veterinarian. He started here. The guy down in Texas.

01:14:20 - 01:14:21

Golly, they had.

01:14:21 - 01:14:22


01:14:22 - 01:14:41

Yeah, he was here. So this zoo was pouring out, Warren Thomas. He was here head of LA. All these guys started in Columbus at vet school. And some of them worked, even went around the country, to be the directors of the biggest zoos in the country. They didn’t do anything really wrong. They just ran the thing, like I guess it was being run. But then all of a sudden it took that slip there, for something about four or five years, where, there there wasn’t these great guys that had the vision.

01:14:41 - 01:15:08

Those guys helped keep it alive. Just Lee kept it alive. They had no money. I don’t know how they even did it. But then they all took off as they progressed in life and met other zoo people and left here. But I just happened to just stay here. And so that’s, that’s amazing to me that those names I just told you who some of you might have interviewed, were some of the finest zoo directors in the entire history of this country and probably will continue to be the finest zoo directors in this country, even some of them are gone now. And I knew all those guys. If you look at those guys I just named, Jim was tough, no doubt about it, but he was a friend of mine.

01:15:08 - 01:15:21

Look at, look at Lee Simmons, look what he did. Look what he did. I think he got kicked out. He and I were the ones got kicked out of AZA, and I must say the biggest honor I’ve ever had in my life, was winning my Marlin Perkins award. I cried. I’ve gotten awards. I could fill this room up with awards, but that was the epitome for me.

01:15:21 - 01:15:26

Nothing, I don’t care the president, I don’t care if anybody gave me the Nobel peace prize, forget it, you know?

01:15:26 - 01:15:46

The point is that Marlin Perkins Award. That’s my life, that’s all. Not because I went out and, I did terrible things, no doubt about that. I think Lee and I were the only ones that got kicked out of the place. I mind because of they were paying us, which wasn’t fair. And then I think Lee wasn’t gonna do a gorilla loan or something. But Lee Simmons was kind of like me. Warren was a, Warren Thomas, just a neat guy, loving guy.

01:15:46 - 01:15:50

And you know, guys you talked about with me today. And that’s how they started here.

01:15:50 - 01:15:55

So, you know, the answer to your question is I think, you know, when did I know that I was accepted?

01:15:55 - 01:16:19

When the employee started working with me, when the trustees said, “Jack, what do you think we should do up here?” Well, we gotta do a lot of stuff up here. You know, we’re gonna get people, that get in the place first to believe in their zoo. I’d go down with my little slideshow with that African song. I’d go around and show slides shows to everybody. Animals weren’t even at our zoo. I’d show up and say, “This is what’s coming, everybody, “let’s get fired up.” Then, yes, I did some mistakes. Yes, I was a fascinated by the circus. There are dumpy circuses, no doubt about it.

01:16:19 - 01:16:47

But Ringling is a circus that has progressed. It gotten better, just like I told you, zoos had gotten better. If anybody knows anything about Ringling, by the way, I’ll just throw these in, throw it away if you don’t wanna use it. Look at their Asian elephant research, just look up the millions they spend. Thanks to Ringling, they could prove that the Asian elephant could survive because of them. So we can knock the circus all day long you want to, but you know, again, we need to work together. So, all I knew is I came here and I said, “I got an idea.” The Great Wallendas, I’m fascinated by the family. As a matter of fact, I was here when Nik Wallenda walked across the grand canyon.

01:16:47 - 01:17:00

Only me, Joel Olsteen, the minister, were allowed with his family, ’cause I’ve just been fascinated by the Wallendas, you know. That had nothing to do the animals. Just I’m bad as anybody by that kind of circus stuff. That’s all. And so was, by the way. So was my friend in Denver.

01:17:00 - 01:17:01


01:17:01 - 01:17:10

A lot of guys in the zoo business, they might not tell you, I don’t, you know me, I’ll tell you. A lot of them they go, “Oh my God. “Don’t let anybody know I like the circus.” I don’t give a, whatever, anyway.

01:17:10 - 01:17:14

So, yes I do, you wanna get into the what, some of the promotions I did?

01:17:14 - 01:17:21

Because I’m not proud of it, but I did it. We’ll talk those. I want to just ask a quick question about when you were the directors.

01:17:21 - 01:17:24

Were you getting advice from any others zoo directors?

01:17:24 - 01:17:25


01:17:25 - 01:17:26

When you started here at Columbus?

01:17:26 - 01:17:29

Yes. At that time, Maruska and I were now are very good friends.

01:17:29 - 01:17:34

At that time, he probably wondered, who is this guy up here in Columbus, Ohio?

01:17:34 - 01:17:35

What is this guy doing?

01:17:35 - 01:17:44

You know, because I’m sorry to say that we had a cereopsis goose up here, which is, I think it was endangered at the time, maybe it still is now, I don’t know. And this lady worked in the maintenance got, was afraid of geese.

01:17:44 - 01:17:45

They would bite her, you know?

01:17:45 - 01:17:54

Well, the maintenance people tried to pull something on her. They put the cereopsis goose out there, you know, she was definitely afraid of birds and that, and she was assistant supervisor of the maintenance, doing the restrooms.

01:17:54 - 01:17:55

The goose bit her in the calf, right?

01:17:55 - 01:17:58

She’d been told them, they knew not to do that, all right?

01:17:58 - 01:18:01

This is probably the mess, one of the mess I ever got. They put the goose, she got bit by it.

01:18:01 - 01:18:04

She took the goose, not knowing it’s cereopsis, just a goose, right?

01:18:04 - 01:18:07

She took it in a barrel and threw it over the cheetah pen.

01:18:07 - 01:18:09

You know what the cheetah did to the goose, right?

01:18:09 - 01:18:13

Oh God. I a get things on my little, I only had two walkies. I was unit one, I had unit two, somebody else, I don’t know.

01:18:13 - 01:18:16

I said, “What? The cereopsis goose?

01:18:16 - 01:18:39

“No way. That’s not ours! “It’s on a breeding loan from Cincinnati.” Now Ed was already, he wasn’t mean to me. He just, you know, Ed was Ed. And so I had to call the man and tell him his endangered goose got eaten by a cheetah. I had, I literally could not eat. I threw up. I said, ’cause Ed was, you know, an icon guy in this business. I said, “Mr.Maruska, this is Jack Hanna at the Columbus zoo. “I think we have a cereopsis goose here on breeding loan.” I said, “It just eaten by cheetah.” I had to tell him the truth.

01:18:39 - 01:19:05

He goes, “How’d he get eaten by a cheetah, Jack?” Like that, you know, in his firm voice. I said, (sighs) “You’re not gonna believe this. “Somebody did it, and it was their fault. “They’re gonna pay the price.” Trust me, they did. I didn’t fire them, but they paid the price for six months. I said, I, it wasn’t fair to her. And they threw it over there, she was mad. “Gosh almighty, who’s gonna tell the media on this one?” I said, “Yes, sir, I’ll have to call them.” That was hardest, one of the hardest calls I ever had to make.

01:19:05 - 01:19:06

I had to call them.

01:19:06 - 01:19:08

I thought it wouldn’t be that big a deal, right?

01:19:08 - 01:19:38

That, we had a Citizen Journal in the morning paper, and had an afternoon paper. I called him up here. I said, just that morning paper. I said, “Just let me tell you “a little thing happened up here. “We lost an endangered animal called a cereopsis goose “on a breeding loan from Cincinnati. “It’s terrible because the goose got thrown in the pen “’cause it bit this lady in the leg.” All of a sudden, the next morning, I couldn’t believe this. On the front page of the Citizen Journal, big print, “Columbus cheated Cincinnati out of goat, Goose.” The headlines that big. I literally went back like this, Ed Maruska calls.

01:19:38 - 01:20:07

“Jack, you seen the paper?” “Yes, sir, I just heard about it.” “What are we gonna do about this?” “I will pay you, Mr.Maruska, “if I have to work for the rest of my life for the goose.” “That’s not really the problem. “I’m not asking for a penny for the goose. “What am I going to tell my people down here?” “Just tell them, Mr. Maruska, “that the goose bit this woman, “they shouldn’t have been, “I’m taking care of the guy right now. “I’m doing everything I can but fire him. “If you want me to fire him, I’ll fire him.” Ed just, Ed probably don’t even remember this. He said, “No, just handle it like you will, all right?” At that point, Ed and I started talking. And then, and then, Ted Beatty, thanks to Ted Beatty, who was with him down there. God bless you, Ted. He and I are very close.

01:20:07 - 01:20:16

Ted helped me understand Ed and work with Ted. And now we’re very close friends. But the other guy in Toledo there, I don’t remember his name. It’s bothering me. He was here for years.

01:20:16 - 01:20:17

Phil Skelton?

01:20:17 - 01:20:28

No, but yes, Phil Skelton. God, you’ve got a good memory. Phil Skelton, that guy was so nice to me from day one. A little bit different situation over at, no Cleveland too.

01:20:28 - 01:20:28


01:20:28 - 01:20:39

Yes, boy you got genius. Goss, those two guys, it hadn’t been for them, I would not be here. No doubt about it. And then Ed came on board later. Those two guys said, “Jack stick in there, you know, “you’ve got a tough job to do.

01:20:39 - 01:20:44

“Any way we can help you?” Those two guys were great. Who was the other zoo?

01:20:44 - 01:21:10

I’m sorry, Akron, I don’t even, the young guy who wrote no, you wouldn’t have, no, he was gone. And then finally Pat Simmons came in years ago, and she and I are very close. I’ve helped her with many fundraisers up there, but which I try and do by the way. I just got through with Brevard Zoo last Saturday night. Packed house. Oklahoma city. I helped him six months ago. I love doing that. Helping the zoos that are really progressing, you know, but back then it was hard, trust me, because I would go to the zoo conference, the AZA conference.

01:21:10 - 01:21:11

Are you kidding me?

01:21:11 - 01:21:27

I felt like a, there’re all kinds of terms I could use, but I just, I could see nobody would talk to you, nless you had all those blue ribbons on and had your big badge, Columbus Zoo on there. And my first AZA conference in New Orleans, you know who it was nice to meet, Ron.

01:21:27 - 01:21:29


01:21:29 - 01:21:32

He was nice to me, because Ron has the same philosophy I have.

01:21:32 - 01:21:33

You know Ron Foreman?

01:21:33 - 01:21:45

Everybody’s the same at his zoo. And I didn’t even know Ron Foreman. I’d never forget that conference as long as I ever live. Ever live. Ed doesn’t even remember this, I do. Ask Ted Beatty about this if you don’t believe me. You’ve got to call him. Ed comes up to me. We have the wilds.

01:21:45 - 01:21:47

Just got the 10,000 acres given to us in 1978, right?

01:21:47 - 01:21:56

So Mel Dodge is here. Mel Dodge knows that director of, of the, of all the parks or the whole land thing here. Department of Natural Resources, they had an appointment by Governor Rhodes.

01:21:56 - 01:22:01

He wanted, he met with, he said, “We’re gonna give this to the, to the Columbus zoo here, 10,000 acres, you know?

01:22:01 - 01:22:24

And so I was all excited. So, Mel Dodge said, “Jack do a program about the wilds “at the conference down there in New Orleans.” I said, “Mel, aint even been here this long. “My God, I’ve just been here six months. I can’t do that. “Maruska, and all these guys.” I said, “They know more about this than me, probably ’cause all Ohio zoos are involved, okay?” It was just not us. It was all four Ohio zoos. I go there and I get my little paper. Maruska comes up to me afterward, he said, “What do you know,” you know Ed.

01:22:24 - 01:22:25

“What do you know about the wilds?

01:22:25 - 01:22:49

“You just got here for God’s sakes. “I know more about the wilds. “Why’d you do the paper?” “I’m sorry, Mr. Maruska, I didn’t do the paper. “They told me to do the paper. “I didn’t wanna to do the paper either. “I didn’t know anything about the wilds, “I just know that I went there at Muskingum College “on a bicycle once in 1967 or 66. “It looked like a bomb went off, “and now it looks like the garden of Eden, Mr. Maruska.” And he kept on me. Finally. Ted stepped in, thank God, because I’d, I was, my temperature, when I get excited, these things fill up, my veins do.

01:22:49 - 01:23:09

I was getting that way. I’m just by myself. I don’t know anybody other than Ted. And Ted said, “Okay, everything’s fine here, buddy. “we’re all gonna build the wilds, don’t worry.” And then we became friends. But at that first point, I was gonna knock him through the wall. Because he liked, he likes frogs and all that kind of stuff. And Ed and I got to be real close, but that just shows you. And then even at a conference after that, even a lot of them I’d go there.

01:23:09 - 01:23:20

“You’re Columbus, you’re the jackass “that had the Wallendas walk across the thing. “You’re the one who had the Great Zucchini “shot out of the cannon.” And whatever, you know. “You’re the jerk.” I mean, I don’t blame them.

01:23:20 - 01:23:21

You know something, you kidding me?

01:23:21 - 01:23:49

I don’t even know. I didn’t do it for Jack Hanna. I did because I couldn’t get anybody up here. So that’s kind of how I was treated, but you know something, I just kept on going. I kept on going to the conferences. I met my friends and then, you know, I’d tell my little stories about my farm in Tennessee, and we all became buddies, you know, and the rest is history. You know, the AZA is obviously done an incredible jobs for all of us. And you talked about education was very important. You’re at the zoo, Columbus Zoo.

01:23:49 - 01:23:54

Did you have a feel, what did you want to do and who, with education?

01:23:54 - 01:24:37

That’s when Jeff Swanagan, who we all know lost his life, who built the Atlanta Aquarium, period. Who went down and turned the Tampa Aquarium, that was going bankrupt, he saved that one. He went to the zoo in Atlanta when Terri Maple called me, he said, “Jack, I’m going to hire Jeff from you.” I said, “Oh, I know, that’s terrible. “He’s head of our education.” Jeff was hired here at 18 years old, picking up trash with me on golf carts. And finally, after he’d been here about two or three years, “I want to start an education program here, education, Jack.” “Go and start, I don’t care what you do.” Jeff took that education, man. He just blew that, our education program here is one of the finest in the world, and Jeff Swanagan started that. So that’s how I kinda got going there. You know, as far as how we started our programs and education and stuff here at the zoo, with the, now turned out to losing his life, but literally making a difference in the entire zoo and aquarium world.

01:24:37 - 01:24:39

He was like my son, by the way.

01:24:39 - 01:24:43

Were you, were you directing him in direction for education, Or just saying, go do it?

01:24:43 - 01:25:02

And mainly told him to go do it. He went downtown, did shows at little schools. And I, he said, “Jack, go out to school.” I started going out, I was already going to schools. I went to more schools, did all my little slide shows. Then we started a little summer camps here. He started that. They started a lot with the signage and then he just, you know, he and I would work together, just picking up trash with a golf cart. We never had meetings. Then finally toward, it started growing.

01:25:02 - 01:25:18

I gotta have an assistant. I have some teachers. Then he got the teacher, then he got the classes. Then we got the high school, have several high school class here now. We have campers from age three-years-old, like a lot of zoos, ours really takes it to the level of beyond. Yes, it’s a profit making thing, no doubt about it. We, our school’s already filled up this summer. Totally full. All of our camps.

01:25:18 - 01:25:20

Is that when you saw the value of education?

01:25:20 - 01:25:25

Oh yeah. No, no,I always saw the value of education. I always knew just from being raised in Tennessee.

01:25:25 - 01:25:26

You kidding me?

01:25:26 - 01:25:41

What education was to the man that worked on our farm and helped us on our farm, Lloyd Hinkel, who’s now been dead for 25 years. I never forget, as long as I live. My dad said, “Lloyd, go up there and paint the barn. “The paint’s up there on the thing. “I just bought the paint to paint the barn.” None of us knew. None of us knew for four years that Lloyd couldn’t read.

01:25:41 - 01:25:42

Can you imagine that?

01:25:42 - 01:25:56

A guy would be on a farm, never knew he couldn’t read or write. He could write, but he didn’t, actually nobody ever saw him write. But he couldn’t read. So he started painting a barn. It was yellow, and not the red color my dad wanted. And he had to half the barn frigging done ’cause my dad came home, and it wasn’t a big barn.

01:25:56 - 01:25:58

Like, “What is that, Lloyd, for God’s sakes?

01:25:58 - 01:26:02

He told him to repaint the barn. And Lloyd went up there and almost started crying. I’ll never forget as long as I ever live.

01:26:02 - 01:26:03

You talk about education?

01:26:03 - 01:26:20

He literally didn’t wanna tell me, ’cause I went up there. I said, “Lloyd, here’s the paint, right in this can.” He goes, “I’m sorry, Jack, you don’t know this. “I never told your dad ’cause he’ll fire me. “I can’t read.” I said, “What? you can’t read?” And at that point I’d never made fun of anything about anybody’s education, my whole, my life. ‘Cause Lloyd’s, like the guy helped raise me.

01:26:20 - 01:26:23

And at that point, this always fell back to that, you know?

01:26:23 - 01:26:25

Why would people come here?

01:26:25 - 01:26:43

We had signs, you know how signs were at the zoo world at first. We had the little animal and the little kid. Then all of a sudden we start writing signs as big as that dadgum thing over there. You know, oh I shouldn’t say this. We have the Asian thing we built down here. We spent a million dollars on the stuff inside the building, all kinds of little things, gizmos for kids to play with, and everything. I saw this, I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy.

01:26:43 - 01:27:08

The TV thing had started and somebody else would run the zoo. And I got, and I saw this, so I went there, and said “What in the fire?” But before opened, right before it opened. “What is that stuff?” “Oh, that’s for everybody to learn “with inside the building.” “Okay, let’s watch something, everybody. “The first,” I said, “watch the first two or three months.” You’ll see it used like crazy. Now down there. It’s still in that building I think. Go down there now and look at your clock. Watch what happens to $1 million worth of stuff. Nothing. Most of it is never even looked at.

01:27:08 - 01:27:12

Now, if it’s done it in a way that, now we do it much differently, I’m talking 15 years ago, okay?

01:27:12 - 01:27:15

That was all in, you know, the stuff was all starting in zoos, right?

01:27:15 - 01:27:36

And the signs were so huge. You’re never gonna sit there and read a sign, watch the average visitor, how about long he reads a sign. You go ahead with my zoo right now and watch it. If you see somebody reading a sign more than two minutes, I’ll personally get your airfare back and put you up at the Hyatt or wherever you want to go. You won’t find it, that’s all. Because they’re here to see these animals. You have to, sure, say this is a lion, Or this is a snow leopard. And there’s a little thing where it’s from, and what would I eat, interesting stuff.

01:27:36 - 01:28:02

There’s an eye, the eye that the brain can comprehend in maybe 10 seconds. But this thing down there was a disaster, period. The money was wasted. Now, as we do these things, like our children’s zoo, up here, up in here, we have more of an interactive, fun thing. Not, not to where it’s very difficult to, to push these things. So now, I’m a new zoo director. And I come to you and say, “Jack, you’ve had so many years of experience with signs. “What, what should I be doing?” Very simple.

01:28:02 - 01:28:07

Make sure you have, especially big as this place is, we just got directional signs, what, two years ago, I think?

01:28:07 - 01:28:33

Well, we’ve had some other signs, but nothing like today. We have, you’ll see in the zoo, how we have, I don’t know right now where this is our busy season. You can start with the, I know they’re up, but you’ll see signs pointing to about everything. Make sure you have your signs telling where the things are, where North America is, where Africa, because especially in a zoo this size, my gosh, 600-and-something acres. You have to know where to go. Maybe you have a favorite thing to go to. Well, we weren’t thinking about that. We just had a sign, south part of the zoo, you might find this, this and this.

01:28:33 - 01:28:37

Do your signage and do it to where it’s, where it draws the eyeball there.

01:28:37 - 01:28:39

Africa, Asia, pretty simple, right?

01:28:39 - 01:29:03

You know, you can’t list every animal that’s in Africa or Asia. And do that. Then also at your signage, put up there snow leopard, endangered, obviously. Why is it endangered? Hunting, over population. Simple words. Maybe one sentence about it. That’s all you need. That’s what you want them to take home with. They can’t read the whole dadgum thing, and take that comprehension home.

01:29:03 - 01:29:20

The average ability I think in this country, the education is ninth to 10th Grade. The average in the country. Go to my front gate and see who comes here. I try and tell the trustees that. See who our visitor is. I went down there for years. I’m not bragging or wanting no sympathy for me. I’d sometimes take my own money down there and get people in here, I felt so sorry for them.

01:29:20 - 01:29:40

T-shirts ripped. You could see these kids didn’t have hardly anything. I hate it, I hate what we have to charge for parking right now. And if this levy passes, I’m gonna change it, period. I don’t like $10 a car. Our members all get in free parking, but when you get a membership, you really are saving wads of dough here, but some people can’t do that. And so we try and have our special days here for people, who don’t have that kind of money. But look at your visitor.

01:29:40 - 01:29:43

Yes, we have a high-income people come here. But look at them.

01:29:43 - 01:29:52

Why as a zoo world gone from when you and I were in business years ago in the 1960s and seventies, what was it, maybe 75,000 at the most?

01:29:52 - 01:30:20

Or I’m sorry, I don’t mean most. Of all the zoos, maybe there was, I don’t know, let’s say 600,000. I don’t know what it was back then. It wasn’t much at all, by the way. And today you look at 176 million people, 176 million people visit our zoos a day. the largest recreation in America is the visitation to zoos, bigger than the pro football, NASCAR, all of them. So this whole thing has changed, like I’m saying. My philosophy is obviously not changed, but the things I do have changed.

01:30:20 - 01:30:26

So this is a big business. And some people don’t like it, when I use the word. This is a business. It’s a big business.

01:30:26 - 01:30:27

You know why?

01:30:27 - 01:30:48

Because that’s where we were screwing ourselves in the early days. People didn’t think, I always felt this as a business. a business of, yes, saving animals. But of conservation, educating people, this is a business we have, everybody. This is like, your CEO is a businessman. The board is called the gate. Unless you’re so fortunate to have your own money given to you, nd you have to worry about the gate. Like the National Zoo is a great zoo, but they don’t have to worry about anything.

01:30:48 - 01:30:51

And that’s why they’ve had several problems. I love the National Zoo, I’m not knocking it at all.

01:30:51 - 01:30:52

Obviously, you kidding me?

01:30:52 - 01:31:15

They’ve done great work, their research is above anybody, but they went through that issue at times, because when you don’t have to worry about anything, you’ve got everything handed to you. You’re going to have a problem. And so here we know what we have to do. That’s my philosophy on the zoo world in a nutshell. This is a business, a serious business, of saving the animal world and educating people, number one. So that’s my philosophy on our business.

01:31:15 - 01:31:19

Now did you have, what’s your opinion about volunteers in the zoo?

01:31:19 - 01:31:20

Did you start volunteers in the zoo?

01:31:20 - 01:31:34

No, the volunteers were started here. The docents were here. Maybe there were 20 or 30 when I got here. There are over, we can’t do them all right now. It was, I think 400 plus. And these are full-time docents. They not only are the backbone of the zoo. And I know zoo say this thank you to docents, the volunteers.

01:31:34 - 01:31:50

You have to have the volunteers and you treat them like they’re your family. You treat them like every, you let them know exactly what’s going on. Before that wasn’t happening. The, oh, these are volunteer docents, they’re just volunteers. You know, let’s don’t let them have a pop. Let’s let them don’t have a bench to relax on. Let’s don’t give them an office. Yeah, I know what went on with the docents.

01:31:50 - 01:31:51

You kidding me?

01:31:51 - 01:32:21

And I must say, at first I wasn’t that much aware of it, when I first got here. But I had only been here three months, I said to myself, these docents were put in the giraffe house, that old giraffe house we had here. It stunk so bad, you couldn’t even go in that office up there. I said, “You’re moving these people. “You know, we’re not having our docents are volunteers, “they don’t get paid a dime to sit up here in a pit hole, “with no air and smell this stuff every day.” And that was after three months. And then our docents, I spoke to them. I met with him every, all the time. They did stuff for me, that the zoo wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the docents, the volunteers.

01:32:21 - 01:32:51

Last night, I spoke to them, I try to do as much as I can. And I thanked them because, “I know you’re thinking, “everybody’s pats you on the back because of you, “we wouldn’t be here. “I can tell you now, everybody, I would not be here. “The zoo would not be here. “We had no money back then, you guys helped me sell pop. “You did the tours.” And now those have the big red jacket. They have their different years of service, and they’re treated like anybody full-time employee here. If I see anyone, mistreating a docent, I mean, not mistreating, that’s not fair, acting like the docent’s second-hand or something, they’re either out of here, they’ll apologized to them.

01:32:51 - 01:32:58

If they do it the second time, they’re out of here. The docents is just as important to this zoo, as Jack Hanna or anybody else. Okay.

01:32:58 - 01:33:01

What was, okay?

01:33:01 - 01:33:06

What was your first big development at Columbus Zoo, your first big development?

01:33:06 - 01:33:23

All right. The first big development at the Columbus Zoo was really, I would say one of the major turnarounds of the zoo, and that was putting the gorillas outside for the first time in history. Colo, the oldest gorilla in, the oldest gorilla in the world today, in a zoological park is alive today. Born in 1956, has broken every record, Colo has.

01:33:23 - 01:33:26

Colo was born here in 19, as I said, ’56, right?

01:33:26 - 01:33:42

I get here in ’78. The gorillas are in bars, like a lot of places. The gorillas never seen basically good daylight. They had a little outside thing. Never touched grass. Never had a little pool to wade in the water, like some gorillas do. I said to myself, I could get the gorillas outside. That’s what I said to myself.

01:33:42 - 01:34:03

I got to find somebody. That’s when I went to a man named Mr. McConnell. I read about him in the paper, I didn’t even know the guy. Took me six, I don’t know, two or three months to even get in to see the guy. Finally, I kept calling, they let me in to see see him. I said, “Mr. McConnell, we have to put the gorillas “outside the zoo. “We don’t have to, but I mean, “you had the first gorilla in the world born here.” And Mr. McConnell didn’t even, I don’t know if he ever even came to the zoo. I just sat there and talked from the heart, that’s all.

01:34:03 - 01:34:38

And I said, “I just need some help.” I didn’t ask for a dime. He said, “So what do you wanna do?” I said, “I want to take this elephant.” The old elephant habitat, by the way, had kangaroos in it. I said, “I wanna take the elephant yard.” A pretty nice size yard, by the way. And then it had a low wall here with a moat and then a high wall out here, and then the elephant house. I said, “I want to take the elephant house, “bust everything out of there and put some bars in there “for the nice big enclosure inside for the gorillas. “And we’ll take that lower wall, lower it, “and raise the outside wall, “put a little gunnite on the outside of this block building, “put gunnite out out here and I can do this. “I can do this for maybe $75,000, I can do it myself.” He goes, “What?” He goes, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes, sir, I know I can do it. I swear. “I know my attendance will go up too.

01:34:38 - 01:35:08

“I know it will ’cause we have “the world’s first gorilla born here.” See I know about Cola. I knew that when I was first starting my business here in the fifties. he said, “Okay, what’s it gonna take?” I said, “I don’t know, might be 75,000.” I just that pulled that out. I didn’t even have, I mean, I had my plan of what I’m gonna do, but I didn’t know how much money, told him we’ll do it ourselves. He said, “Okay.” The first question he says to me, I never thought this in a million years. “How you know the gorillas won’t get out?” I had no idea. I didn’t know anything about gorillas. I just know by watching them at the zoo so far, I’ve been reading about them and know they don’t really jump around like chimpanzees ’cause. “I know I’m just gonna put a chimpanzee out there.

01:35:08 - 01:35:35

“If he can’t get out, the gorillas can’t get out. “Outstanding idea! I’m gonna come out there tomorrow. “I’m gonna give you $50,000, “come out there tomorrow.” If you saw the picture in my book, he comes out here. He has a hand-written check from him personally, not even with his company, which is huge, steel company. I sit there with a, we only had one camera guy, our camera guy, I figured the paper might pick it up. He’s there, sitting there handing me the check, and that gorilla comes out with his hand. You see the gorilla in the, several picture, grab the check and eats it. And I went nuts.

01:35:35 - 01:36:05

I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. McConnell. “I don’t blame you, this is obviously not a good idea “I’m having on doing the gorilla thing. Just forget it.” “Why, Jack? This is the coolest thing ever happened to me! “Can I have a copy of that picture? This is unbelievable. “Can we do this again?” “Yeah, but he’d eat your check. “I’m just nervous right now. He ate your frigging check.” “Jack, there’s another check, you just cancel a check.” “I know that, but that’s not the point. “This is embarrassing for me. This is unbelievable. “And plus you could’ve lost your arm.” I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t know that much about, I mean, I knew gorillas, I knew not to cross the line there, but the gorilla wanted that piece of paper. So that made him, he then became my father.

01:36:05 - 01:36:23

The golden rule that I told you. The golden rule, do unto others. It’s how he built his company. It’s a nonunion steel, incredible, all over the world, the company’s grown to. And he taught me many things, but he’s the one took that money. I took that money, Bill Cupps, my guy there that helped me with the polar bear and cheetahs things. He knew how to drive a truck. He went to Alabama, that prison, got those old bars given to us, comes back there.

01:36:23 - 01:36:41

I go in there and take my own people. I did have to hire a gunnite company, by the way. It was some guys. They do gunnite around here. It wasn’t the fanciest gunnite, but by golly, it covered those block walls. We built a little pool out of there and put a big old tree with a crane out there. I lowered those inside walls. We all did it in house. He worked 24/7, a lot of us did. We did it like from my bet, you do it from January.

01:36:41 - 01:37:01

We opened that thing, I think June 15th of, hold on a minute, be ’81, ’82, I don’t remember. And I’ll tell you something. We had media there, everybody that day. We opened those doors up. ‘Cause I should have practiced beforehand. I know that, but I didn’t. And I did, you know something, this is terrible. I don’t even think I had a chimpanzee do it, but I tried getting out myself, and I looked at all the possibilities.

01:37:01 - 01:37:15

It couldn’t happen. I opened that door up, Colo comes, and she looks like this. One gorilla go like this, and go back in the building. Not one day, two days, third day. They didn’t come out the first few days. I’m going, I don’t believe this again. I called the media the second day. They came up again.

01:37:15 - 01:37:38

Third day they won’t come up. I did have like one channel there. By God, they got the picture. When one gorilla came out first. As you know, probably more than anybody in this country, then they all came out. It took them about 20 minutes for all of them to get out there and back then I mean we had Colo, we had Colos kids, whatever. You know, I don’t know, a family of maybe 12, 14 of them, out there running around, touching the water, throwing it, ’cause they knew what water was like that. Getting on this big old gunnite log I built.

01:37:38 - 01:37:48

Oh my God, I sat there and just, I damn near started crying. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And then our, even the staff were going crazy. Then the word got out, and then all about 100-and-something thousand people start pouring into the place.

01:37:48 - 01:37:49

Then what do we have right after that?

01:37:49 - 01:37:56

This just shows you what can happen. Twin gorillas, for the first time in the zoological world, were born at the Columbus zoo and survived, by the way.

01:37:56 - 01:38:02

Twin gorillas,and then I had a veterinarian help me, or not a veterinarian, my wife’s gynecologist, can you imagine this?

01:38:02 - 01:38:19

‘Cause the gorilla’s having eclampsia. I don’t know what eclampsia is, a thing females get, all right, when they have babies and stuff. It’s, it can be fatal. And Nick was a gynecologist. And they did an autopsy on the gorilla when it’d pass, and it was eclampsia, something all happened to the gorilla. I don’t know what it was. And Nick said, “Jack, you need to have physicals here, “once a year and I’ll do them, on the females especially. “But you do the males too.

01:38:19 - 01:38:37

“I’ll bring doctors in from the Ohio State, “from your veterinarian, “You got veterinarians down here.” Which were then starting to work here. Now the whole zoo is involved with the Ohio State Veterinary School, which it’s been the last 10 years, obviously. So then we started doing our physical on the gorillas. And then about the third year we’ve been doing them, and remember he’s my wife’s gynecologist, just so I thought he’d do a pretty good job. He didn’t like that joke, but I do.

01:38:37 - 01:38:41

So anyway, he sonogram, or what do you call it?

01:38:41 - 01:38:55

The thing we put that jelly on. Ultrasound. he did one of those things, and he goes like this, just normal, “That’s amazing. “This amazing, Jack, I guess, I don’t know, “maybe it isn’t amazing. “There’s two heads here.” And I said, “Nick, that’s not even funny. That’s stupid. “Don’t be funny.” He said, and he never got mad at me, we’re close friends.

01:38:55 - 01:38:57

“Jack, okay, you’re a doctor, what is this?

01:38:57 - 01:39:16

“Come here a minute.” I go, “Holy mackerel!” Even the zoo’s, the gorilla staff go. “This is impossible, there is no gorillas, “been born in a zoo.” Everybody went nuts. They called the media. National geographic got involved, came and set up cameras. Everybody did. Nick picked the day of birth. Two days, 48 hours, he was off. All of a sudden everybody’s asking, “When’s it gonna?” I don’t know when’s it gonna happen. Nobody knows about gorillas. You don’t know when it’s gonna happen.

01:39:16 - 01:39:35

So all of a sudden, it happens two days prior to when he said it was gonna happened. The baby squirts out, and she takes the afterbirth, eats it and sits there and nurses the baby. Then everybody’s up there going, “Oh my gosh, when’s the next one coming?” “I don’t know, Jack, it could be two minutes. “It could be 20 hours, I have no idea. “You know, there’s nothing to go by here.” So all of a sudden, not three minutes later, the next one comes out.

01:39:35 - 01:39:37

In the, in the wrapped totally in the afterbirth, right?

01:39:37 - 01:39:52

That mother squirts out, ’cause she doesn’t know. As you know, a lot of gorillas were pulled back then, you know, that’s what we did. And any zoo that denies it’s lying. Most of them were pulled because they were such a valuable animal for breeding. And then we didn’t, we all should have known. We didn’t know, basically, that they learn from each other.

01:39:52 - 01:39:54

So what happened is, it’s laying there, right?

01:39:54 - 01:40:25

The mother walks away with that first baby. Nick goes, “Jack, don’t get nervous. “If that continue to be that sack for three minutes, “you will not have a gorilla. “So I want decision now what to do. “Do you want me, you can’t go in there, “the mother’s got her baby.” I said, “Diane run around there,” Diane Fish, “run around there.” She was here over 30 years, she passed. “Run around there, Diane, and go, slam the back door, “just slam it.” And so I’m, she’s out there in less than, I’ll bet probably 30 seconds, she’s down the steps, back over there, slamming doors, throwing bananas on the floor back there. Finally the, she had the baby, she went back in there, shut the door. Nick ran in there, and it’s all video.

01:40:25 - 01:40:49

He runs in there, still filming everything, these cameras. He runs in here and just rips it, the afterbirth off, and the baby starts going like this. For first we saw nothing, and he started going like this, you know, moving and stuff. So he grabs the baby like this runs, to the nursery. It was a cold nights so he wrapped it in a blanket. You know, there was no stopping to do anything, ’cause he’s a doctor. He goes down there, but the sad thing is, he goes into maintenance, but he gets lost, ’cause it’s dark, it’s one in the morning, and we can’t find him. He didn’t even have a frigging walkie.

01:40:49 - 01:41:13

All of a sudden the children’s zoo calls, “where’s Nick?” “I don’t know where he is, where, he’s down there, “he’s been there for 10 minutes ago.” He can’t find him. Finally, we, everybody bust out of the building, go flying, screaming his frigging name. He’s in the maintenance office, like this holding the baby, in the warm building. So it was funny, but it wasn’t funny then. So it, the gorilla down there, she finally is bleeding almost to death, the mother, and they take, we didn’t take the baby. We wanted this one to have the baby. There’s no way possible, Nick said no. Nick had watched her for about 12 hours.

01:41:13 - 01:41:29

“Don’t do it, Jack. The baby’s not nursing. “She’s bleeding real bad. I got to go in there. “So we’ve got to fix her.” So both of them were raised there. Both of them grew up together. Good morning America just started. Because of that question, you maybe ask, I don’t care if you do. That’s when TV started nationally. That came here within, I don’t know, a few days to cover the footage we had.

01:41:29 - 01:41:58

You know, the mother in the, in the nursery there, obviously the mother was, you know, in there, they filmed her too, ’cause she was, Nick had gone inside there and stitched her up. But that was when the Columbus zoo, or Jack Hanna, whatever. That when ABC Good Morning America came here and filmed it. The next month they came back to see the gorillas again. ‘Cause it was such a big news in the zoo world. Then the next month they said, “Jack, would you mind bringing a few animals to New York, “And just telling us about the animal world?” Obviously, the Bronx Zoo is there. I didn’t call them or anybody else. ‘Cause obviously they don’t practice that, which I appreciate, a lot of zoos don’t.

01:41:58 - 01:42:10

I have no problem with that, you know. it’s just that, “Sure, I’ll get some animals.” These animals treated better than most people are. As I tell people today, when I debate animal rights folks, 98% plus for animals, they come from other zoos. They don’t come from the wild.

01:42:10 - 01:42:17

If I need a cheetah or giraffe or gorilla, I’m using examples, I can take a veterinarian over there right now from Ohio State, these guys, are yu kidding me?

01:42:17 - 01:42:24

Collect the sperm or the eggs from the animals and bring them back here. Just like we sent the bongo antelope back to Mount Kenya, when I was with Don Hunt, when they were gone on the mountain.

01:42:24 - 01:42:26

I said, “Don.” That’s when he started working with Cincinnati, remember that?

01:42:26 - 01:42:28

And we started working with us and we have few bongo.

01:42:28 - 01:42:29

Then what happened, what?

01:42:29 - 01:42:50

Four or five years ago we sent about 30 of them back on Mount Kenya. So that’s how the zoo world has changed. You know, I know I’m jumping around here, but I’m just trying to say what we can do in the zoo world now. What we’ve learned about gorillas now. Columbus now is one of the few places in the world, ’cause you, that’s your expertise, that now bring some babies in here, and their mothers don’t take, or come from other zoos. We all do work together on that. They fly them here in private jets. We take them in here. Our staff works with them.

01:42:50 - 01:43:12

Our staff can even introduce them to some of, it blows, I can’t watch this, when that big Silverback’s in there. They don’t do it at first, but they’ll put him in there eventually. And then sure enough, it’s, knock on wood. We’ve never had one getting wiped out yet by doing this. So the whole, the whole thing with the gorillas, and then back to the TV. Okay, so then I take the animals to New York, and do Good Morning America. I go back to next month, that’s ’83. We celebrated 30 years last year.

01:43:12 - 01:43:36

Then all of a sudden Letterman starts in ’85, and much different, a much different show, by the way. I never knew who David Letterman was. Never even watched the show. And went to, we were on Carson on NBC there, Rockefeller Center. Then it moved after after five years there, we went to Ed Sullivan theater. And yes, I did take animals there. I’ve never, knocked on wood, I’d never seen him make fun of an animal. He tears me apart, but he respects that, he, I asked him to do that in the very first show I ever did with him.

01:43:36 - 01:43:37

But the exposure there is incredible.

01:43:37 - 01:43:39

Now why is it important?

01:43:39 - 01:44:13

Somebody can say, “Jack, you’re using the animals to make a lot of money.” I just told what kind of money’s involved. No, that’s not quite it. I still believe that while I was teaching on Letterman, there was college students back then, especially, they can learn something. Even though it was fun, they laughed, that audience is a tough one for you to do on David Letterman, even today. Good Morning America, it’s sometimes, back when you could be sure to get into some places, I could do David Letterman at night, Good Morning America the next morning and get there at 6:00 a.m., I could do Fox and Friends. I can do a tape of Larry King, one-hour special, the whole thing. We did that for 21 years, four times a year. I can do three and four shows a day in New York that way with that one set of animals.

01:44:13 - 01:44:40

And yes, the animals have rooms, and yes they are transported in places that are beautiful, you know, there’s not just putting an animal in some box. Yes, they’re in their crates. And the ones that go there are animals that are used for education. So that’s how all that stuff started. But Letterman, it really hit home two years ago, when a guy comes up to me, he goes, “Mr. Hanna, I couldn’t believe it. “I watched you in college. “I’ll never get that time I watched you. “And now, you know something, “my grandkid’s gonna be able to see that in a few years, ” when he goes to college.” I said,”You’re what, I’m sorry, you didn’t say grandkid?” I, it ruined my frigging day.

01:44:40 - 01:44:46

“Your grandkid’s gonna, how old are you?” “Well, Mr. Hanna, I was a senior in college in 1985.” What, how many years ago was that?

01:44:46 - 01:45:07

’95, 2005. I said, “My God. You’re 40-something years old. “Of course you have grandkids.” But for me, he set me back. I said, “Jack, you’re old buddy.” Like, you, I didn’t know I’d been doing this stuff that long. I don’t even think about it. But think about this man coming, many people come up to me and send me letters now, saying that now their kids and their kids’ kids, had to watch the things we did.

01:45:07 - 01:45:08

And remember this, remember that?

01:45:08 - 01:45:38

So yes, some of the stuff I did might’ve been criticized for, but knock on wood so far, I’ve never, I’ve had a serious bite myself, that’s the only person I know of in all my shows, hundreds of them, thousands of them by now. And I’ve never injured anybody on the show. I’m not saying that won’t happen. I never say that. But I think that the value of the education we’ve done through television and the media has been insurmountable for our zoo. And I think for the animal world as well. And somebody may not, I appreciate that people might not agree with that in the animal, in the, in the zoological field. But that’s kind of what I did.

01:45:38 - 01:45:50

Well. When talked about Letterman, when, how did you decide to have, I guess what I’d use, a flamboyant personality, on the Letterman show?

01:45:50 - 01:45:55

Was that something that was consciously decided with him or?

01:45:55 - 01:45:58

You mean his flamboyant personality or your saying mine?

01:45:58 - 01:46:03

Yours. I didn’t, you see people think I’m flamboyant. I look at myself as the same Jack Hanna.

01:46:03 - 01:46:06

When I go on the show, do I turn into a different person?

01:46:06 - 01:46:10

You could say that, because do I know now about animals?

01:46:10 - 01:46:21

I’m not saying I know everything about animals, by no means. I mean, Dr. Conway, yourself, all the, all these other guys could put me to shame, in their knowledge about animals. I know animals in a common way.

01:46:21 - 01:46:25

Why, quote, has Jack Hanna been successful and, or the Columbus zoo?

01:46:25 - 01:46:37

Because I try and teach animals and conservation in a plain way. I just said the average ability of a person in this country watching TV probably is a 10th to maybe 12th grade education.

01:46:37 - 01:46:38

And so they’re, they’re watching TV, what?

01:46:38 - 01:46:41

On Letterman, they’re watching me have fun, right?

01:46:41 - 01:46:54

So there’s a, there’s a whole different venue for me. It’s very difficult as I said before. Yes, the animal might take a pee. I don’t make the animal take a pee. I don’t make the animal do anything. I don’t become flamboyant. I try and become, when Dave, it’s almost like playing college football, playing with college football.

01:46:54 - 01:46:57

It’s almost like going into a game with him, you know?

01:46:57 - 01:47:16

You can’t match wits with a guy. He’s got the greatest wit of any comedian in the history of, Johnny Carson was good too, but Letterman is, he’s not Johnny Carson, none of us are. We’re all who we are, but he’s quick. Oh he can tear you apart in one split second. So when he tears me apart, I mean, in the first years were H E double L. I get, today I get tons of emails after I’m on that show.

01:47:16 - 01:47:17

How do you let him treat you that way?

01:47:17 - 01:47:24

This is terrible, we, of course they love watching ’cause they don’t know what I’m gonna do. You know, I don’t know I’m gonna do either. Like when I showed him a bat, one time.

01:47:24 - 01:47:28

I created this myself, I took a tennis ball, put hair on it, okay?

01:47:28 - 01:47:30

I had a box, called a bat box, you know?

01:47:30 - 01:47:47

I little trigger underneath the bat box. My buddy, Don, in the maintenance department designed this. ‘Cause I said, “You know, Dave, I never had,” I took this on the show. I said, “Dave, I never had bats on here. “Bats are important to nature. “Dave, without bats, world could go to an end, “you understand?” So I took that bat box on there, I had my hand under here. I said, “Dave, now just wait a minute. “I’m gonna open this thing, and let you look down there and see this bat.

01:47:47 - 01:48:08

Opened the hole up, I pulled the trigger. The damn thing, with hair on this tennis ball, flew up and hit him right here on the side of the head. Oh buddy, it wasn’t even, to me, people with nuts. I mean, went crazy. But Dave didn’t like that at all. He said “Don’t ever pull that on me.” After the show. I said, “Okay, no problem.” And that’s the only time I ever did it. Or, when I did my first book, “Monkey on the Interstate” with Doubleday Books.

01:48:08 - 01:48:24

They wanted me to go out and promote my book everywhere. I’d never get on. If I ever did, I said, “No, I’m not doing it.” “You already signed this contract. “You have to go on Letterman, Good Morning, America, “And two other shows. “You have to promote your book on four shows. “You do about seven of them. “You can do it on four of them, okay?” “Okay, no problem.” So gotta be where I had have two more shows. Or they going to take my contract.

01:48:24 - 01:48:26

I already did my book, screw it, you know?

01:48:26 - 01:48:33

I don’t care if I sell one copy of one million, ’cause the money I made off my book wouldn’t pay for probably the gasoline for one year. But anyway, so we just dropped it.

01:48:33 - 01:48:35

We sold thousands of, but who cares?

01:48:35 - 01:48:41

I sold them at below costs. So what I did was on Letterman, I thought this, like, a week before, I didn’t tell anybody, nobody.

01:48:41 - 01:48:44

I took my book, “Monkeys on the Interstate”, right?

01:48:44 - 01:48:58

I cut the center out of the book. I went downtown, New York city. I bought me some big earthworms that people fish with. I put them inside my book. I put my book like this, I walked out there. And then they check me now every time I walk out, because they don’t know what I’m gonna do. They won’t let me do what I used to do. So I go out there with my book back then.

01:48:58 - 01:49:12

They didn’t notice the frigging book, ’cause I had a, some feed, for the other animal I had on there. I put right here, on this, he didn’t see it. And I said, “Dave, you ever seen a bookworm?” He said, “What?” Cause I surprised him, he didn’t know what I was talking about.

01:49:12 - 01:49:13

“You never seen a bookworm?

01:49:13 - 01:49:48

“Look at this, Dave, here’s some bookworms.” I threw my book on the thing, that the cover flew open, and the worms flew out on his desk, and the cover flew back like this, and it said “Monkeys on the Interstate.” Dave goes, “What in the heck is this?” “It’s bookworms, that’s my book, I wrote.” He held the thing up right to the camera goes, “This is unbelievable, you aint got the talent “to write nothing, much less a book.” I said, “It is my book. “You can read about me. Okay. “Here’s the papers I took out of it.” And threw them on the desk, people went nuts. So I got to promote my book. So, I could, you know, I’ve been offered money, good money to promote hats, gloves, shoes, watches, everything, not one thing. I’ve done three national ads.

01:49:48 - 01:49:49

You know why I did them?

01:49:49 - 01:50:03

Because I do the product. I do the NutriMax ad for dogs, for the joint stuff because our dog took it. Three years before the company even called me. I did Black and Decker once because I use Black and Decker tools. I think, oh yeah, I did Lee Jeans once and Nationwide Insurance that sponsors my series. ‘Cause I’ve always had that insurance company.

01:50:03 - 01:50:06

I, because you know what you become on TV, if you’re not careful?

01:50:07 - 01:50:34

I don’t know what word to use here ’cause it’s not a nice word, but you don’t want to become a person, aw, darn it. You know the word I’m looking for here. (indistinct) Yeah, but let’s say, you know the word, everybody watches this knows the word. The point is you can’t go on there and say, I’m trying to concentrate on what I’m doing with the animals. Whether it’s Good Morning America, or any of these shows. I go on all these shows all the time. I can do a lot, make a lot of money, but I have to go on there saying, “Well, what time, oh, it’s time to,” look at my Rolex watch here. By the way, you probably noticed my hat.

01:50:34 - 01:50:54

You probably, might even notice this shirt. My shirts and clothes, I bought by, Jack Nicholas is, we all know famous people, he’s a very dear friend, and he loves animals. Been a friend for years. I had dinner with about six years ago. We had Christmas dinner with him, every Christmas. And he goes, was it only his family. He looked at me, we were sitting there, eating together about five, six years ago. He said, “Jack, where can I get one of those shirts?” I said, and this was before I got the Cabela ones.

01:50:54 - 01:50:57

And I buy these on my own. But I said, “I get these in Australia.

01:50:57 - 01:50:59

“I’ve been getting them for 12 years now.” “Where in Australia?

01:50:59 - 01:51:00

“Oh yeah, hold it, Jack.

01:51:00 - 01:51:02

“You get them in Australia? Are you kidding me?

01:51:02 - 01:51:12

“You buy your own shirts?” I said, “Yes, I do.” “Are you crazy?” He almost choked on his Turkey. “How can you be doing that when, look at, “I have a huge company with my golf shirts, “and my golf clubs, you are not serious!

01:51:12 - 01:51:15

“Where is your brand?” I said, “I don’t know, brand, what brand?

01:51:15 - 01:51:28

“I eat Raisin Bran.” He said, “That’s not even funny. “You’re not, you gotta be kidding me. “I’m gonna have somebody call you.” And then I’m too old, this was six years ago. I don’t wanna do, you know, if somebody wants to brand something, call me up with something I believe in a product, I’ll do it.

01:51:28 - 01:51:32

But I’ve only done four of them in 30-something years of TV and that just my belief, all right?

01:51:32 - 01:51:35

Whether you like it or not, you know, that’s how I do things.

01:51:35 - 01:51:48

How did, how did being on television and doing the shows that you did with Letterman and Good Morning, how did it affect you and your responsibilities as director of the zoo?

01:51:48 - 01:52:20

You know, there’s a question that I’ve really never been asked. I thought about that obviously, but I wasn’t thinking too much about it, I guess at the time, because what happened to me. Yes, the Letterman show started. I’m sorry, Good Morning America started, the Letterman show, I could still operate the zoo. Are you talking about back in ’83, then ’85. Then our first levy went on board, which then brought money in here to build some things. So obviously the zoo started growing. And then at that point, when the TV started from those two to the Larry King show to another show, and then Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures started in the late ’80s.

01:52:20 - 01:52:46

That’s when Mel Dodge, who was like, my dad, as I told you, he was on the board of the zoo, and there’s 17 members. And he said, “Jack, you need to come up with some person “that can come here and be the director of the zoo. “While we can let you do what you do good. “We’re not gonna take your salary away. “We’re not gonna do anything to you, “but you’re good at what you’re doing, “and promoting, not just our zoo, but our city. “Look at what you’ve been doing here. “And right now you’re getting more and more. “You want this national television series, you’re starting.” And I, at first I said, I wasn’t hurt.

01:52:46 - 01:52:54

I said, “I’ve worked so hard, Mel, to build this zoo, “you know, and it doesn’t have to be me, but I don’t, “I think I can do both.” “No you can’t Jack.

01:52:54 - 01:52:57

“When’s the last time you saw your daughters, by the way,” the three girls I had, “cheerlead?

01:52:57 - 01:53:28

“When’s the last time you went on a vacation “with your family?” “When’s the,” he started to ask me saying, I said, “I don’t have to, Mel.” “oh yes, you have to, Jack. “I could be your father almost. “You’re going to start doing that. “You cannot do the TV series, you cannot do the zoo, “and do everything, as you well know in this business, “the zoo director field. “It has, there has caused. “There have been divorces, quite a, “as a matter of if you took the divorce rate, “probably in the zoo world, I may be wrong about this, “as far as directors and things, “you might find it a little bit higher “than other average businesses.” Because you’re constantly, zoo directors today. And even back then, that was their life, period. It was mine.

01:53:28 - 01:53:29

Yes, my family, you kidding me?

01:53:29 - 01:54:05

Myy wife and my children are important, just as important, but you know, you do things in life that you think, you don’t forget about them, but you do forget about them, and you just, the zoo is your life, that’s all. It’s that simple. It’s seven days a week, 24/ 7, that’s all. This is like I tell anybody, it’s like, it’s like the, like a hospital, or an army or something. There is no days off. There are no days off. And so I didn’t see it that way. I just said while I’m out having fun doing this, I’m gonna just keep working. But Mel was bright enough to know, “You can’t do both Jack. “It’s a disservice to your family’s, “it’s a disservice to the zoo and whatever, you know?” So I said, “Okay, let me go out there and look around.” My wife comes home, she worked for the, for the senior citizens center in town.

01:54:05 - 01:54:31

There was a guy named Jerry Borin, he’s a nicest guy, he loves people. He’s not, don’t know anything about animals, he has a dog. You know, but sometimes in this business, believe it or not in the zoo world, sometimes someone that doesn’t know anything about animals can be a better administrator in the zoo world. And sure enough, I just, that was the first, she came up with the first name, my wife. Jerry Borin was his name. So I go out, just talk to Jerry. I said, “Jerry, would you like to be a part of “running the Columbus zoo?” You know, I called him up.

01:54:31 - 01:54:34

I told Mel Dodge, he said, “You better get Jerry Borin, “he runs a senior citizens center, are you crazy?

01:54:34 - 01:54:37

I said, “Mel,” because he always, Mel had to have his ideas, okay?

01:54:37 - 01:55:02

So I didn’t know that at the time. So I said, “Then, Mel, you talked to Jerry. “You know, he’s here, in your department. “And right now we’re under your department, “even though we have a private zoo board here.” He called up Jerry and said, “I’m gonna look at that.” I met Jerry, talked to him. I said, “I like this guy.” I said, “Jerry, I’ll help you the animals. “So will other people up here. “That’s not really our problem.” I said, “Running the day-to-day operations. “It’s how big the operation’s getting right now.” He takes the job, he’s here for 17 years (laughs).

01:55:02 - 01:55:35

To answer your question. So yes, I needed help, because I couldn’t continue to do all the shows that I was doing on a monthly basis, versus Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, which became really the, one of the longest, if not the, we don’t know yet, the longest running television animal show on television. Other, maybe National Geographic. It outdated Wild Kingdom because it started in 1989 and still today, it goes on reruns all around the world. So that was in, and that wasn’t mine, by the way. I worked for salary for 14 years, I think on that show all over the world. And so that’s what happened. I went to doing that. I’m still on the executive board of the zoo to the date.

01:55:35 - 01:55:56

Like I was back then. Mel said I could still be very much involved in major decisions at zoo. What we build, what we do, how we promote it, Da da da da da. I just was not involved in the day to day. It was hard for about the first three months. I had people try and come behind Jerry, because he had to make some changes and get in my door. That was very difficult. But you know, I had to do what he, I’ve only interfered twice.

01:55:56 - 01:56:27

And the one time I interfered was with the guy doing that camera right there because the new guy came on board, Jeff, and Jeff didn’t, wanted some cutbacks in certain areas. Not because there’s a budget, he just didn’t know the zoo. And he just saw the, this, the, this video department we had and didn’t understand the value of it, and he was asked to, Graham was, to leave that department. And I said, and my wife, I told my wife, she said it this way, “He’s nuts.” And Jeff’s like her son. “He’s crazy, you go over right now tomorrow morning. “You’re changing the whole thing. “Tomorrow morning, or I’m leaving you. “I’m not leaving you, I’m leaving the zoo.

01:56:27 - 01:56:38

“You’re gonna leave too.” I mean, she never said this I’m dead serious. I went in there, I said, “Graham is probably the finest person “you have here in the zoo, Jeff.” He said, “I don’t know who’s Graham?” I said, “I figured you know who Graham was.

01:56:38 - 01:56:39

“Who, you remember the Christmas thing?

01:56:39 - 01:57:06

“The Christmas party we had, “with the whole thing is featured on a big, “whole motion picture thing, we put together, “it shows what we did that, during that year. “Remember that? That’s Graham’s. “But that’s just not all Graham’s. “Graham does all, everything in the zoo. “He brings the zoo to the other parts of the world.” He goes, “Obviously I made a mistake.” I said, “Yeah, so go ahead and I’ll go to Resources, “and Graham’s back here tonight. “You understand? Or I’m not going to be here.” I’ve never done that in my entire life, use a threat like that. That’s the only time I ever interfered, and I had to do it one at a time with guy up in maintenance. That’s it.

01:57:06 - 01:57:31

I just don’t interfere the day-to-day operation of the zoo. I can’t, and trustees, by the way, according to the AZA rules, the trustees are not supposed to be involved in the day to day. So that’s how that whole thing started. Sure enough, you know, it worked, because I’m still involved. I’m so much involved here. I’m probably more involved here, but not the operations or anything else going on in the zoo. Now there are a lot, I’m talking about television show, but there’s a lot of animals going wild shows on the air, and they, I presume make some money.

01:57:33 - 01:57:36

What’s your opinion of the goal of these kind of television shows?

01:57:37 - 01:57:58

I’m not jealous over any television show. I’m sure not jealous of those shows. Some of them, some of them are okay. Not, when I say some, I’m talking about very few. Nat Geo is pretty good. National Geographic always has been good, obviously. The epitome is Planet Earth and Blue Planet with David Attenborough. Nobody, nobody in the world can never come close to him.

01:57:58 - 01:58:01

I don’t care what kind of stuff’s invented in TV, with wildlife filming or whatever.

01:58:01 - 01:58:05

Like guys, you think Marlin Perkins’ a hero of mine?

01:58:05 - 01:58:28

Which he still is, and his wife who passed away recently, was a buddy of mine. But David Attenborough of Planet Earth. I just wished I could do that. I don’t have that kind of money, that I, I’m not the BBC that’s supported by the government. You know, I don’t have, when we go do a show, we have to do, when we go to Africa, like we just got back. We had to come up with at least six to eight shows in less than three weeks. That’s, if we don’t do that, then we’re, we’re not in business. And we work 24/7, we go too, by the way.

01:58:28 - 01:58:53

Every single day, there is no hours whatsoever. And that’s how we succeeded by doing that kind of a thing and a difference in our show, by the way, and you need to know this. How does Jack do it? Very simple. Airfare, lodging, the everything we go to is supplied by that country. And that’s how we have succeeded over 450 shows a because we don’t have the monies. I’m not talking our salaries. I’m talking about, talking about when we go there, because we come back. We right now, we can’t film all the countries we have to film in, we’d asked to.

01:58:53 - 01:59:23

India, obviously the Middle East, we had to turn down Jordan recently, which I hated. It’d be a heck of a show. But there’s obviously some wars there. Some people didn’t have their kids. So what we’ve been successful at, is having the country, now the Department of Tourism, whatever it might be, take care of, once we get there. Picking us up, providing a lodging, food, the resource of vehicles to film them a show. We’re probably one of the few. And this gets back to where you’re saying, we’re one of the few film companies that once we have that in the box, we ship that to them, each and every show.

01:59:23 - 01:59:44

They can use it however they want to. Promoting their country, could do whatever, they just can’t air it. However, turning around now to some countries, who we probably never would go there. They’re like Gabon, I’m going to give them all the shows. They can air it in Gabon, do whatever the heck they want to, but not out of that country. That would cost them probably, minimum, 175 to $300, to $300,000 a show. And now the word’s getting out what we provide. Now we’ve got countries, we can’t go to all of them.

01:59:44 - 02:00:00

Wanting us to come there. If they had to talk about their country, they’d have to pay a film crew a lot of money to come there and do this. They don’t pay us a dime. They just provide services they’d already got there. And so this isn’t rocket science. The shows you’re talking about today. When I film, we have a rule. Yes, we had accidents, yes, we have.

02:00:00 - 02:00:29

You don’t do this for 25, 30 years almost. We have a comfort zone in the animal, a comfort zone of my film crew. That even applies I think in the zoo world. You have a comfort zone of each of these, when there’s a crossing of a animal or our film crew in the comfort zone of the other individual, animal or person, a train wreck will happen. Something will happen if you’re there long enough. And the other word we use is respect. You respect when you go to someone’s house, you respect that you’re in their house. When you go to visit a zoological park, it wasn’t that way when you and I were growing up.

02:00:29 - 02:00:34

Did you really respect the zoo when you went there by not throwing trash on the ground and not throwing peanuts at the elephants?

02:00:34 - 02:01:00

That’s just what everybody did, so, you know, that’s what I did. I didn’t think twice about if they’ve selling peanuts to let the elephant hit you with peanuts, or the chimpanzees or whatever it might be. Today, again, is a different world. Today you respect. When you come to a zoo, you have to respect, this is their home, like you went to your neighbor’s house. You don’t go to your neighbor’s house and throw trash on the floor. You don’t go to the bathroom and not flush the toilet, you know, you are in their home here at the zoo. And that’s what I try and tell people.

02:01:00 - 02:01:16

These TV shows today, it’s called reality TV. Our society is changing. I don’t even have a computer. I’m not proud of that. I wouldn’t know how to turn on a computer. Someday, I know I’ll have to learn that. But right now my life is focused. When I go out in the bush or wherever it might be, like we’re talking about five years ago. That’s when it just stopped.

02:01:16 - 02:01:48

I’ll be out there trying, I can’t remember, I think it was the elephant. Anyway, look at this, this is the, I think we were in Tanzania, Look at the elephants out here, must be 15, 20 of them. All of a sudden the guy’s cell phone rings. This hadn’t happened before. Because if you remember back in the ’70s, you go to Africa, you couldn’t even, you could use your satellite phone then, once you got to the main lodge, or you had walkie talkies, you couldn’t get anything out there for, when you went out there for two or three weeks, or the Amazon, you’re there for two or three weeks. You don’t know what’s going back home. Unless you have the emergency number that contacts this and the police and everything else, they can find you. But this happened to me and I love, I’ve been these guys 19 years.

02:01:48 - 02:02:00

Guy Nickerson, Spectrum Productions, Tampa. I said, “Guy, come here a minute.” I stopped everything. I said,”I cannot bring the world Africa or the, “our country on film, if a cell phone goes off. “I’m sitting here trying to be myself in Africa. “All of a sudden, your cell phone rings.

02:02:00 - 02:02:02

“That tells me, why the heck do the show?

02:02:02 - 02:02:10

“You know, you’re taking away all the feeling I have “of being out in the jungle, “and trying to represent how I feel to the viewer.

02:02:10 - 02:02:11

“And can we stop it?

02:02:11 - 02:02:28

“None of that, Can we, you are gonna stop it.” “If you wanna go back in your tents at night, “or wherever you’re staying “and turn your dadgum computers on, “turn them on all night long, I really don’t care about it. “You know, but don’t ever do that out here again. “And please don’t even let me see you work “or look at your computer out here again.” But that’s how we film. We film with respect for the animals, the best we can.

02:02:28 - 02:02:30

Have our comfort zones crossed?

02:02:30 - 02:02:41

Yes, we had a rhino, we were so, I make sure elephants and rhinos, you know, I know they can do a lot of damage in a split second, or even cape buffalo. I’ve had too many things, watching, seen happen. We’ve had accidents, we have a death, we’ve had deaths before.

02:02:41 - 02:02:43

But you know what the deaths have been from?

02:02:43 - 02:03:08

From a guy that had a hang glider, took me over Victoria falls at two in the afternoon. The dadgum thing was going up and down like a dadgum, 50, I said, get this thing out of here. I want to go back now. And they had another helicopter filming me. We’d go back there, I get out of it, we leave. Not even 10 days later, he’s killed over Victoria Falls because you don’t do the dadgum Victoria, even though he’s been doing this 20 years. He’s dead. The same show, we go into Tanzania to, I’m sorry, you know this guy’s name.

02:03:08 - 02:03:30

I think of it, a minute. Anyway, he’s in a helicopter, the helicopter this time, doing his filming. He would film like this and go down there. And plus he would film people working with giraffe, you know, roping them out in the wild. You know, catching them for not zoos, but for other wildlife reserves, he crashes his helicopter. And I, sorry, I can’t remember his name, it’s bothering me. So all those both shows are dedicated to them. Things happen.

02:03:30 - 02:03:53

We had a rhino picked back of our Jeep up. I don’t know where the thing came from. We had our sound man almost lose his leg. We were doing the elephant seals on the west coast, in this country, we had a veterinarian, a Game and Fish guy and a biologist, somebody’s collecting milk. He had to, they had to go out there and test milk. They did it, not for us. It was, some shows set up things. When I know that there’s something going on in Africa at a certain place, and they’re going to do it, go and tranquilize some animals, on a normal basis we’ll do it.

02:03:53 - 02:04:20

Some shows, these guys because they want to be on TV, they’ll set up fake exams. I don’t, I don’t want to go, remember I make sure that they don’t that kind of stuff, without just taking care of Jack Hanna. That’s how a different way we film there. This dadgum elephant seal flew up over, I know where this male came from, I have no idea. None of us do. We were sitting behind this stand, and flies over there, grabs him right there on the thigh with those teeth. And didn’t rip him, just hit him like that and let go, four holes right there in his leg, this thigh. And this guy was a medic in Vietnam, he’s tough.

02:04:20 - 02:04:31

He just, he just, he just liked, like this. You could see, he didn’t even scream. He was just, he was groaning. And I said, “Oh God almighty, he’s gonna lose his leg. We called the ambulance, took him to the hospital. Next day, this is him.

02:04:31 - 02:04:32

He has a bandage,right?

02:04:32 - 02:04:52

Come back to work, limping, on a crutch. But he had his sound equipment, he sure did. And is toe, I’ve never seen like this, was blue at the end, his scrotum area, the whole thing to his stomach was total black and blue. I mean, it was frightening. No he’s gonna work. That was an accident. That was something we did not try and cross any comfort zones. That thing came out of nowhere. Like the rhino picked the back of our Jeep up, almost tipped it over.

02:04:52 - 02:05:15

I don’t know where the heck he came from. I don’t know where the elephant came from that tore our tent down right next to me over there, could’ve killed anybody. And usually elephants think that tent is, as you know, as a, as a, like a fortress, they don’t bother them. You know, they know that they shouldn’t be there. I, you know, we have several things like that, but if we have an accident, you well know this, 98% of the time or more, it’s the person’s fault, not the animal’s fault. I can give you, my friend, Steve Irwin.

02:05:15 - 02:05:16

How did he lose his life?

02:05:16 - 02:05:52

Well, Wes Mannion, who was with him, and now runs the whole thing was his, like his beyond buddy, like friend, even more than you and me, probably. Just, they lived together basically, from the time he was a little boy, both boys grew up. He was there with his boat out there, filming, and I think Benny was taking a break or something. And they’re out there filming the, I guess he had the camera or someone was filming him with the stingrays and stuff, where I’ve been exactly before filming. These are big stingrays, like twice as big as that rug you’re sitting on, the big ones. And I guess what happened from what I understand, ‘Cause I’ve never asked Terri, I’ve just gotten from good sources that worked for him, that he evidently was in shallow water, swam over the stingray like this.

02:05:52 - 02:05:57

And what would you do if you were in your house, and you saw a shadow coming out behind a wall, and you had your house locked?

02:05:57 - 02:05:58

You jump, don’t you?

02:05:58 - 02:06:30

You’re gonna jump, obviously gonna jump. Without the guy even doing anything. The, I think the stingray saw that shadow, just popped his butt up, and on the back of his, not his tail, or you know, his butt bone, is that thing by the end of cord, inside of the corn cob and right there. It was on video. So the point is that, and my friend, Dawn at SeaWorld, that lost her life, by the way, with that quote, quote, documentary Blackfish. which I would not even be involved with, I don’t get paid a lot of money by SeaWorld. Well, I do a speech out, maybe, I’ve been going to SeaWorld since 1973, when the first one opened Orlando. And I know what goes on at SeaWorld, is that the same people operate SeaWorld.

02:06:30 - 02:07:04

I’m giving you an example though, of what happens to us in the, when you talk about things like this, using someone’s death to make money. I debated those folks and not now, I can rip them apart because now SeaWorld can speak out because they now are owned by themselves, not Blackstone, the hedge fund. And they couldn’t say anything about what those people were saying. And I can tell you right now, make you crawl in that chair, when you find out why those people were fired. I’ll tell you about one of them then we’ll get back to the show. One of was fired because they kicked a sea Otter across the fork, kicked it. One of them was fired because they took a selfie, of their picture of their the head in the whale’s mouth. That was never told, those stories, I’d tell you the other three, but wait til you read it yourself.

02:07:04 - 02:07:35

Anyway, I had to do Dawn’s funeral. She was like a very close friend of mine. Try and do the funeral of a person, her mother now just came to all my shows two months ago at SeaWorld, and stayed at every single show with her siblings. So where I’m coming from is if Dawn we’re here today, she would tell you that what happened, no matter how they argue this, she did have long hair. She had no children, by the way, she was with that whale for 15 years. Her hair, they said it didn’t, but I’m just saying what we all think. I don’t need to show you the video, ’cause you wouldn’t even, I wouldn’t even want to see it because I heard of what happened. The hair fell down, the whale did grab it.

02:07:35 - 02:08:00

‘Cause to him, it’s a play thing. ‘Cause Dawn was always there with the whale, and then all, you know what broke loose. So that’s where I’m coming from. When something happens and you’re asked a question, in our field, 98% of time plus, it’s our responsibility. Now, we talked about different people you’ve been on the shows with, with Bill Maher, Larry King. There’s one right there. Yeah. Bill Maher. You were more serious obviously, than David Letterman.

02:08:00 - 02:08:02

Was this a conscious choice or were they directing you?

02:08:02 - 02:08:09

I wanna tell you something now I never said on film. Larry King, his daughter, I took her to Africa a lot of times, Larry asked me to take her one time.

02:08:09 - 02:08:12

Larry, did he have a real love for the animal world?

02:08:12 - 02:08:13

Probably not.

02:08:13 - 02:08:15

But did he have pretty good questions a lot of times?

02:08:15 - 02:08:38

Yes he did. Because he was inquisitive, he never knew anything about animals. You know, he just, he was that way. I even hosted his show twice myself, with once with Betty White and Tippi Hedren, you know, she had that reserve as you know, I think Melanie Griffin’s mom. And then also I think of the third person, I did three of them. Oh yeah, Tippi Hedren, Betty White. Anyway. So we, the three of them, we did the show with several times.

02:08:38 - 02:08:41

But, what was your question again?

02:08:41 - 02:08:56

Wait a minute, start over. Well, it’s just that you were more serious with those people, than you were with David Letterman. Yes, yes, exactly. The Larry King show is a different show. You can still have fun on that show, in more of a Larry King show. Bill Maher, that’s the only time, and I’ve never said this on TV. I don’t mind telling you about Bill Maher. If that’s black, it’s white.

02:08:56 - 02:09:14

If it’s red, it’s white. You know, even though I’m a Christian, I’m a sinner like everybody, but I am a Christian. The point is I did his show, not knowing who he was. My wife said don’t do it. “Why?” “Jack, I’ve seen his show once.” “I’ve never seen his show, Sue.” I went on there with Steve Harvey, he was a comedian. Nelly Furtado, or whatever her name is, the singer. She was just got started, Nelly Furtado, I can’t remember her song, but anyway, the three of us.

02:09:14 - 02:09:16

I thought we were just gonna discuss things, right?

02:09:16 - 02:09:24

This is the only time in TV I’ve ever almost come at somebody. I don’t even know how I, the Lord stopped me. I’m sitting there, they’re talking about all kinds of issues.

02:09:24 - 02:09:26

About 15 minutes later, it comes to me on Bill Maher, right?

02:09:26 - 02:09:28

This is an example of what not to do.

02:09:28 - 02:09:35

Bill Maher looks at me with a serious look, he says, “Why do you tranquilize those animals “on David Letterman and Good Morning America, “and all those shows you do?

02:09:35 - 02:09:40

“Why do you tranquilize them?” Real dead serious like. I thought I was hearing things. I go, “I’m sorry, Mr. Mahar,” I said, Mr.Maher.

02:09:40 - 02:09:44

“I’m sorry, I don’t, I’m sorry, “What, what are you talking about?” You know, I was shocked, right?

02:09:44 - 02:10:11

He goes, “Don’t act like you don’t know. “You tranquilize those animals. “I know what you do.” At this point, my temperature, not temperature, who knows what you have your inside your body, went to, out of the top of my head. I said, “Wait, hold a minute, here. “Where are you going with this?” I said, “I hope I educate people.” “You suffer those animals and,” I said, “Mr. Maher, no one’s ever suffered these animals. “They’re all born into zoos throughout the country. “Plus as my zoo believes in this, and that’s what I’ve done. “I think I’ve educated millions of people over the years.

02:10:11 - 02:10:17

“Knock on wood, I’ve never had one, “I could have an accident.” And then, and then he goes, “And you, what do you give to conservation, “You don’t give something to conservation.” I gotta get you a tape someday.

02:10:17 - 02:10:22

I go, “I don’t, really? I’ll be darned.” I said, “What do you give to conservation?

02:10:22 - 02:10:23

“What have you ever done for somebody?

02:10:23 - 02:10:26

“Have you ever helped a zoo or helped an animal, “or anything like that?

02:10:26 - 02:10:41

“Other than PETA?” Little do I found out, he was on the frigging board, involved with PETA, before I even go on the show. That’s how he roped me into this whole thing. I’m just telling you what happened to me. All of a sudden, I said, “How much do you give?” I said, “I’ll tell you how much you give you give zero.” I went like that, zero. All of a sudden, he starts arguing back.

02:10:41 - 02:10:43

Steve Harvey, the comedian, big old guy, you know?

02:10:43 - 02:11:10

He looks at Bill Maher like this. And this is when all the heck broke loose at PETA. He looks at, he looks at Bill Maher. He goes, “Bill, you better stop. “This crocodile’s gonna eat your ass.” And all of a sudden, the crowd starts clapping for me. That’s when the next two next days, that’s when PETA stepped in, had two girls out in front of Good Morning America, Times Square, when they were at ABC right down there, right now, totally naked, except the g-string on, top, everything, looked dressed like a leopard. Jack Hanna’s a wildlife pig. Then they went after me two weeks after that with some famous comedian that was inside there, they stuck in there.

02:11:10 - 02:11:26

So we took care of that though, after about two months. One last thing, up in Detroit, for example, if I ever had animal rights folks try and interrupt somebody’s speech. Only twice in all my 30 years, I do over 80 to a hundred speeches a year around the country. Up there though, I was in Detroit doing the theater speech at the, at some theater college, I think it was.

02:11:26 - 02:11:30

And outside there they had, PETA had a little boy, about six years old, locked in a dog crate, right?

02:11:30 - 02:11:59

Jack Hanna’s a wildlife pig. My buddy walks by. He’s a lawyer. He just walked by ’cause, I didn’t even know he was coming to the speech. He, I went school with him at Muskingum years ago. He goes, “Why is that kid in that cage, “and why are you calling Jack Hanna a wild life pig?” And the guys go, “because he takes these animals, “and takes them on the road, and it’s not fair to them, “da da da.” And he goes, “Really, that kid shouldn’t be in that cage, “I’m calling the police.” He called the police. The guy arrested PETA. Now, you know, I don’t mind debating them whatsoever anymore, I really don’t. Because my whole purpose, and you asked the question about safety, and how we film, that kind of thing.

02:11:59 - 02:12:11

All I know is what we do in the zoo world, and what I do with our shows, we bring the animal world to people because only one 10th of 100% of the people, you and I have been lucky to travel the world, and see some animals in the wild. But everybody can’t do that.

02:12:11 - 02:12:13

So why are we all here?

02:12:13 - 02:12:25

We’re here for one word, I just told you earlier, is education, is having fun to be educated, ’cause they can’t go to Africa. They can’t go to the Amazon. They can’t go to the North Pole of South Pole like we have. So we try and bring it back to them, video wise or through the zoo.

02:12:25 - 02:12:26

Video, you know something?

02:12:26 - 02:12:49

I tell people, my show does the best it can do, but I can’t touch what the zoological world, aquarium world does. I can’t do that. Could you feel the animal, you smell the animal. You can put a picture of a, of a tiger, a panda up there on the wall. You can have a magnificent oil painting. You can have all the beautiful shows like David Attenborough. We can all have all that stuff, but the epitome that you have, is a good zoological park to learn what it’s like in the wild. And I believe that with a passion.

02:12:49 - 02:13:00

I know what I see in the wild. I know what I see in zoos and today’s zoological parks are a heaven and a haven for these animals. It’s that simple. I hope if I ever come back in my second life, I come back as a hippo.

02:13:00 - 02:13:01

And you know why?

02:13:01 - 02:13:14

‘Cause I love to watch those animals while they sit there and they sleep, they eat in the water, they can get as fat as they want to. They breed in the water. They, my gosh, I mean, I had the sunlight. It’s a great way to go. So I’m gonna come back as a hippo.

02:13:14 - 02:13:19

How did you develop the television shows that you do and what audience were you trying to attract?

02:13:19 - 02:13:21

You know, there’s a good question.

02:13:21 - 02:13:22

How do we develop the shows?

02:13:22 - 02:13:49

Animal Adventures just developed, I guess, around my character, they got the people I worked for. They just had heard me doing a little show called Zoo Life. I did 40 shows, a guy in California asked me to do 40 shows. He went down the tubes because he was trying to do a magazine, all kinds of stuff. He owed me well over a quarter million dollars. I didn’t ask, I didn’t sue, I didn’t do nothing. I just left within two days, this guy calls me and says, “Jack, we want to start a show “called Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, are you on board?” I didn’t own anything of it. They said, “You work for salary.” I did that for 13 years.

02:13:49 - 02:13:59

We did over 500 shows all over the world. This guy, I will not say names, was like my brother, he got caught for embezzlement. I was supposed to have a backend on TV. As you know, reruns were on the back end.

02:13:59 - 02:14:00

Supposed to be pretty good to you, you know?

02:14:00 - 02:14:03

That’s why you work so hard, and nothing, not one penny.

02:14:03 - 02:14:04

You know something?

02:14:04 - 02:14:09

Everybody said, “I can’t believe “you’re not doing this sueing.” “I can’t believe you’re not doing, you’re not so upset.” What am I gonna do?

02:14:09 - 02:14:32

You know, I can’t do anything. He’s gone, because he worked for a higher up that, I won’t mention that name, who you’ve heard of what he owned. No way I was gonna go after them. I said, forget it. I’m just gonna leave and start my own television series. That’s all. I’ve learned a lesson. I ended up feeling better. I traveled the world. And then I just started the Into the Wild, kind of based on a kind of Animal Adventures. Not really just, you know, it was an animal show with my daughter, Kathleen, did Animal Adventures for 12 years.

02:14:32 - 02:14:46

Then she met a guy in England, got pregnant and had babies and screwed my whole show up. So then I had to get my wife to help me. Now Sue helps me now, but Kathleen’s kids are in school now. So she’s been on my last two shoots. And if she wants to carry on this quote brand of Jack Hanna’s animal shows, she’s more than happy to do it.

02:14:46 - 02:14:49

If he doesn’t want to do it, then fine, you know?

02:14:49 - 02:15:01

It’s not gonna kill me to get off TV. The point is, I love it so much because I know that my audience now are people, and you asked the question, our audience isn’t, this isn’t a show for children. This is show for everybody.

02:15:01 - 02:15:07

And that’s why when people doing the marketing surveys with us and by the ad time they go, “What is your audience, Jack?” What am I always in my speeches?

02:15:07 - 02:15:40

Anybody from a three-year-old to a hundred-year-old. It’s the whole family can sit back. And that’s where the difficulty comes in. Trying to have an animal show that the kids will watch. You know, the attention span is obviously a little difficult, as well as the guy who’s 80 or 90-years-old in a, in a, in a home, or in a senior citizen, wherever it is. But you wouldn’t believe the number of people that are older that watch the show or even the little ones. But that’s how I have to do my show. I do it as I, as you for example, let’s say you never went, only did you went to a zoo, you never got to know much about animals, but you’re sitting there watching this guy, Jack and his wife and his family do these shows.

02:15:40 - 02:16:15

You know, man, I notice that he’s doing things I could do. You can’t, I can’t do things Steve Irwin could do. I can’t, sure don’t do things that people in reality TV do today. So I’m trying to bring them a show that they can actually go and do these things that, they could actually go at Victoria Falls. They could actually get in the canoe and go underneath the Agua Sioux, Agua Sioux Falls in South America, the largest falls in the world, as far as length wise. They can actually go see the polar bears at Churchill. Maybe some of them couldn’t go to some of the places I go to, obviously, ’cause we have special permits, there are special things you have to sign, ’cause you could get your butt killed. If you’re climbing Himalayans, there’s certain things that they can’t do maybe, but I at least try and show them that maybe they might attempt it with her, not them because they’re too old, maybe their kids might wanna try it.

02:16:15 - 02:16:28

Again, we do things obviously in two-man submarines that they’re given, they’re not given to us, that we can film from that you get just can’t really rent or anything. But very few of those shows I do are something they couldn’t do.

02:16:28 - 02:16:29

So what’s my success?

02:16:29 - 02:16:45

I guess or our success, the Columbus Zoo is that I relate to people where they can do it too. That’s that, if you look at all my shows, go look at them someday. You’ll see that maybe you could go to the places I go to too. And that’s all I’m trying to do is bring in the animal world in a very simple way that they can relate to, that’s all.

02:16:45 - 02:16:55

Now, why would you say you have been successful in dealing with the media and what would you tell a zoo director in regards to dealing with the media?

02:16:55 - 02:17:21

Well, obviously I’m not like a lot of zoo directors, a lot of zoo directors aren’t like me. You know, none of us, the good Lord created us to where we all are different. I learned that early in life, trying to maybe play some sports. I wouldn’t, I mean, I played college football for a year or two, but I wasn’t that good. I just thought I could try and play real hard, but I know where my limits were. You know, not everybody can be a Jack Hanna. I sure can’t be Marlin Perkins. I can’t be a Bill Conway.

02:17:21 - 02:17:40

I can’t be, you know, Ed Maruska or Warren Thomas or some of the people are gone now. People were my buddies, you know. I can’t be that. I could never have the intelligence they have. I guess I’m just who I am. I have not changed, I don’t think myself. I hope I got a little bit more knowledgeable of what to do, not to do. I think I have.

02:17:40 - 02:18:19

I think I know a lot about the animal world in a common way that I can teach the average person watching. I think, if anything that I’ve done, is try and bring the animal world to people that way, both at the zoo here, as well as teaching a zoo director, all I can tell a person who wants to be a future zoo director is the fact that listen to people that work for you. Don’t think that you know everything, listen to people that work for you. Get, all of us in life, want to be heard. All of us like Bill Cupps. All he wanted to do was explain to me, “Jack, I think I can do this.” Don’t say, you know, I can’t stand this one word can’t, I cannot take that word, can’t. Yes, you can’t, and I think I said it before, you can’t jump off a building 50 stores and survive. Obviously that’s common sense.

02:18:19 - 02:18:51

But don’t tell me I can’t take the gorillas and move them outside in a better habitat for $75,000. Don’t tell me I can’t have Africa up there with a plane. We had a (laughs) this is crazy, idea of crashing a plane inside the Africa, where the lions will get on the wings, and you have the public down here in the fuselage of the plane, like went down to the Africa in the old 1930s, that carried 30 people. And so we’ve done that. We didn’t crash it, we got, I got an inside of a warehouse. A guy was saving it in a little city in Ohio or had one in California for 40 grand. This one got for nothing. All I gotta do is just put a plaque on the plane, came from this little city in Ohio.

02:18:51 - 02:19:09

But people now, this big old plane, with the big old engines in the old days. They’re now going to go into the fuselage and see the lion. I air conditioned the wing and they’ll go, the lion’s gonna sit on the wing. It’s just a different experience for them. You know, that was not my idea. It was got that worked for us. I said, “You know something?” Because everybody got the Jeeps that back up, you know the lions get in the back of Jeep, and do all that stuff. I said, let’s try something different.

02:19:09 - 02:19:38

“Will it work?” It’s up there right now if you wanna go see it. I didn’t say can’t work, Jim, this can’t work, that you can’t, like the gorillas. You can’t have a gynecologist. He’s not a veterinarian. You can’t do this. You can’t, I, if I heard the word can’t so many times around this place, I don’t hear it much anymore because they know I don’t like it. You know, you can in life, do everything you want to do. Except if you know, from, that you can’t do certain things. You know, you’re, if you’re an athlete or you’re a zoo director.

02:19:38 - 02:20:04

If you’re a zoo director, work with the people that work with you. Go down to the person that serves the hot dogs at your concession stand. They know a hell, a heck of a lot more about hotdogs than you do, or the drinks or, your souvenirs or your bathrooms. Jeff Swanagan did this, I haven’t done it yet. I feel terrible. Jeff Swanagan told me, he told the staff here. He said, “I want you to go take,” I mean, we must have 40 bathrooms in this place, 40 different places. “Go there and paint me a bathroom that’s wild looking.

02:20:04 - 02:20:29

“I want you to paint me two bathrooms. “I don’t care what you do. How you do it. “Clean that dadgum thing up and paint it!” They’re all clean, but he wanted them painted. I said, “What is he going to?” “Because, Jack, it gives the people that work here “in the maintenance department something do “they’d never been asked to do.” I said, “That’s ingenious.” They went and painted these two bathrooms. Incredible. What’d he do? He gave him something to create. Same thing with the guys in the, they take care of all these vehicles, right out, I don’t know how many of them. You know, do me something, get some graphic thing on that vehicle right there.

02:20:29 - 02:20:31

And by the way, where’d you get your tires from?

02:20:31 - 02:20:58

I mean, he gave everybody in the zoo. I’d done that before, but not to the extent he did. Every division in the zoo. Plus every zoo director should remember something. There are about, in our zoo, 18 careers here, 18 careers. We’re talking about veterinarians, the curator division, the animal division, the horticulture division, the promotion division, the marketing division, the finance division, the IT division, something like that. So people are working at the zoo, everyone say, “Oh God, I can’t work in the zoo.

02:20:58 - 02:21:02

“Even though I’m majored in this, that I can’t work there.” Oh, you can’t work there?

02:21:02 - 02:21:31

We have 18 careers here. Some people that come in the zoo and start in these careers, they were so good, they worked there long enough, and then they get out and start branching out in other careers. And other careers, golly day, Don Wentzel here, who was head of our curator many years. He started parking cars at the senior house at university, got his degree, then he just, I don’t know what he did. Clean here, of around, he worked his way up to the vice president of all the dadgum zoo. You know, so I’ve seen it happen. Now maybe not as easy today as it was back then, but that’s again, not the point. Let your people that work for you take part in it.

02:21:31 - 02:22:05

Yes, you have a board, have a good board. That’s a critical thing. Here at Columbus, until recently we have, what I call the golden triangle until about six months ago, we still have it, by the way, but we have to get those little hiccup here. We have a golden triangle. We have the city that owned the zoo originally, the county and the zoo association, the golden triangle, not one time until six months ago, don’t need to get in details, it’s not really critical yet, but politics stuck it. Our board members, 18 of them, are appointed by the city, the county and the association. The golden triangle has never been broken. Never one argument in 30, 35 years here, not one.

02:22:05 - 02:22:07

And people come here from all over the place.

02:22:07 - 02:22:09

How in the world, you guys doing this stuff?

02:22:09 - 02:22:34

Because we all work together. We all listen. The city Columbus never interferes. The mayor gets to appoint his people. There were three county commissions appoint their people, ’cause it’s all, now the county’s bought all this land around here next to the city land. Now it’s all one big thing. And the association has been lucky enough to be appointed you know, by people applying to get on the association. It’s the most sought after board in the state of Ohio right now, our board. Now every meeting, we have 18. We have 18.

02:22:34 - 02:22:48

If somebody’s not there, they’re either sick, ’cause they have a ball at our meetings, and we make it that way. By the way, make your meetings short. Don’t make your meeting where, I’ve used to this place, we had nothing to discuss. “What kind of hot dogs you serving here?” “By the way, I don’t like those chairs.” I remember the meetings I had an early days. They didn’t like the chairs, hot dogs.

02:22:48 - 02:22:49

You know what I did?

02:22:49 - 02:23:13

I just bought into 10, 12 brands of hot dogs. I made everybody eat a hot dog. So then they all had part of eating a hot dog, you know, that’s the kind of minor stuff we did then. Going from a, going from a, hold a minute, going from a $600,000 budget in 1978 to 62 million today, going from 30 employees to 2,400. Going to, I could go on and on for you. I mean, it just, this place blows your mind. Not because of Jack Hanna. It’ss because of the citizens of Franklin county.

02:23:13 - 02:23:40

Also as zoo director, don’t forget who your people are. Don’t forget something. And again, no one respects the AZA more than Jack Hanna, nobody. Remember something, you don’t work for the AZA, you don’t work for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. You work for the people that pay your taxes to run your zoo, period. You work for a board of directors that report to those taxpayers. And if you don’t have a board base, as far as taxpayers that do your zoo, or you, some zoos, as you all know are self-sustaining. I think St. Louis and a few other, three or four are the only ones in the country.

02:23:40 - 02:24:07

And that’s fine. But by golly, when you have taxpayers paying their hard-earned money for you, then you do what you do. But you obviously have to be like a, you’re a dentist, your American Dental Association, you’re lawyer, Bank and Barr Association. That’s not rocket science, but I see something happening in some zoos today. They seem to go, and yes, we have to live by AZA accreditation, and all that kind of stuff. No doubt about it. It was very important for the younger zoo directors that come in here to understand something. You better take care of, you know, like when you play a little football, if you play like I did a little bit.

02:24:07 - 02:24:16

If you’re a tackle, you tack, you, I’m sorry, an offensive tackle or guard, you block the guy in front of you first. If you get him, then you go help with the other guy.

02:24:16 - 02:24:18

So what do you do in the zoo world?

02:24:18 - 02:24:48

You darn well better take care of your community and your zoo first then yes, you have the AZA that you have to appoint to. Some people reverse that whole thing. I mean, very few, but some of them get all confused. We gotta live, Mr. Board, and Miss and Mrs. Board, or the city, we gotta to live by the AZA rules. Yes, that’s true. But you darn well better live by who supports you first. And then you take on this, and you have to take it on eventually, or you won’t be the AZA. But they, some people reverse whole thing, and try and take care of all the things AZA wants first, SSPs, accreditation, all that.

02:24:48 - 02:25:15

You can’t get accredited unless you take care of your frigging zoo, and it’s still, I’m sorry, a few zoos today just ain’t getting it, because they’re not doing any better. And even some of them, I can’t go back to anymore. I’ll have a zoo once, twice, but the third time I do it, I can’t go back because I see it getting either worse or less support or less marketing. I don’t see where the community is involved in the zoo. Brevard Zoo, I just left on Saturday night. I was there 20 years ago when it started. A little old zoo on 25 acres. Now they’re up to 50 or whatever.

02:25:15 - 02:25:27

Most incredible zoo. Fort Wayne, you saw Fort Wayne Zoo. Unbelievable. You don’t have to be, you don’t have to be 40 acres. You don’t have to be 10 acres. Zoo people need to know this. You don’t have to be like the Columbus Zoo, 600 acres. Look at Lincoln Parks Zoo, what they did down there.

02:25:27 - 02:25:52

Look at, zoos don’t have to, you don’t have to judge the zoo by the size, by the way. Some of you be, oh my God, my zoo’s 800 acres, my zoo’s this. Oh the wilds is 10,000, whatever. I don’t judge, when I go to zoos, help zoos, I help about eight to 10 a year. I wish I could help more. I can’t be everywhere. I know, when I say help them, all I do is go there and tell them what happened in Columbus, and tell them some fun stories I’ve done, and sign my autographs and go to the next zoo, you know. And I do take my animals to zoos. We take animals to hospitals, people who are dying.

02:25:53 - 02:26:22

You know, let me tell you one quick story. I know we’re running behind, but I have to tell this story, because this is why I work here. About six months ago, a lot of kids with special wishes come here, and people with last wishes come here. If you notice my office, you can see some kids on the walls up there. I don’t have them all because it’s impossible. And maybe it’s because of my exposure to my daughter. But I doubt that, that’s been one thing, but I had a man six months ago, bring his daughter here, said Jack, “She has a very serious case of leukemia cancer.” And I should tell you, a blastoma. I knew that’s fatal.

02:26:22 - 02:26:48

She said, “but all she wants to do is meet you “and maybe see one of your animals.” They came from a, like, I don’t know if it was Kansas, or where it was, flew in here. She came up here, she was in a wheelchair, this little girl. Her sister was, she was about 12, sister maybe 14, beautiful sister. She was like Julie was, bloated, you know, this face puffed out from the, can’t remember the drug, when they’re in chemotherapy. And you could see, she was perspiring. You could see she was trying to smile. I took her up there, our building up there. I let her hold a rabbit at first.

02:26:48 - 02:27:05

Then I let her hold a, held the penguin for her. So I went to wash your hands cause she was gonna hold a baby cat. I think it was a little serval. I was gonna wash your hands, her father looked, his, that father looked at me and goes, “Jack, you don’t need to wash your hands. “Her hands be washed up there very shortly.” I had, I mean, I was trying not to cry.

02:27:05 - 02:27:08

I mean, a father was telling me the good Lord will wash her hands?

02:27:08 - 02:27:10

He didn’t want our hands washed?

02:27:10 - 02:27:34

I mean, that’s powerful. She died eight days later and that’s, that’s the epitome of what I do. Of what I brought the joy. I get emotional right now. That’s the epitome of what anybody could do. As far as what I’m concerned, you’ve, I don’t know if I’ve already told you the story, I’m tired right now. I think I told it yesterday to somebody, Well, it was my, oh yeah, it was, on a radio thing or a newspaper in Illinois somewhere. The DeKalb, it was.

02:27:36 - 02:27:39

What’s the most incredible thing you remember, Jack, at the zoo all your life?

02:27:39 - 02:27:51

I told him the very same story. I’ve had, but I’ve gone through not one, not two, at least several dozen of these kids have passed on, but they spent their life, not because of me. They sit there and got to hold a penguin, smile for the probably the last time in their life.

02:27:51 - 02:27:53

You don’t think that’s powerful of what we do?

02:27:53 - 02:28:23

Now I encourage every zoo director. Remember that when you’re in this business. Go to your front gate and watch who comes in your gate, watch the joy on their faces, watch, you don’t even have to question them when they left your zoo. I know when people leave here, my people know something that work here. This one thing that also, by the zoo director, is very important. Make sure you tell your staff that when you’re, when you’re on and that zoo gate opens to the public, obviously it opens, it closes, you’re still here. When that public comes in here, you’re on stage, like on Broadway. You’re on stage, like whether you’re doing a speech.

02:28:23 - 02:28:51

You’re on stage with your uniform that says Columbus Zoo. That means that you have to act like it’s the first time you’ve ever been out there. I do 80 to a hundred speeches a year. I do all these shows. It’s difficult sometimes to go in there, like it’s the first time, you know, it’s, but that’s what you have to do, everybody. If you go out there and go, “Oh God, it’s Thursday. “I gotta go out here again and do a keeper talk, “oh dear God.” Make sure you have the inspiration to continue that. If you don’t, it takes a lot of energy.

02:28:51 - 02:29:11

You see how all fired up I am all the time. Yes, I may kick the bucket tomorrow, but I get fired up because of what I believe in. You have to remember something. It’s the first time maybe they ever came to your zoo. The first time they maybe heard a keeper talk, and I’ll go around and by the way, and I watch it. I’ll make my notes. I don’t sit there and tell them a dadgum thing. I’m thinking I just turned it into Tom, or actually, I take it right to Tom, the CEO.

02:29:11 - 02:29:32

I say, “Tom, I’m not tattling on anybody. “I’m just trying to help the people.” And sure enough, he doesn’t even get mad. He just goes his nice way. How’s, that’s why Tom’s here, he’s like a godsend to me, right. It’s like the Lord provided me Tom Stalf. I just can’t believe when Jeff went that I’d find somebody again. And yet that’s what he believes in. Because when you have your staff, everyone, this is like Broadway.

02:29:32 - 02:29:55

This is like the first time when I go on Letterman. It’s like the first time. It’s the first time, even though I’ve done it, hundreds of times. And when I do my speeches, like I did last week, four cities, I’m sorry, three states in six days. And boy, when you do two a day in some of these theaters, you gotta get back up there. You know, look at the singers, these country singers go around here and do all this stuff. You damn, darn well better understand something. The zoo is no different than any of that.

02:29:55 - 02:30:12

When you’ve got your visitor paying their $10, $5, 20, 30, 40, $50, whatever. You just, I know I’m rattling on here. I’m just trying to tell you the things that I’ve learned over the years to make your zoo successful. Be yourself. Make sure that it’s, oh yeah, the uniforms. The Columbus Zoo had Sewers and Drains uniforms here.

02:30:12 - 02:30:14

Sewers and Drains, okay?

02:30:14 - 02:30:38

Nobody would talk to you. You couldn’t even get somebody to pick up trash. Today you wear a Columbus Zoo uniform to store, ask anyone here, they get stopped 10 times in that grocery store. “How’d you get a job at the Columbus Zoo?” “My kids want to go to camp there.” “My kids, how can they work there like you do?” Every single one of them will tell you. Sometimes they take their shirt off. ‘Cause they can’t get their grocery shopping done. Forget me, what I look like. I just had take, pull my hat off and put a t-shirt on, but I when I open my fat trap, I’m in trouble.

02:30:38 - 02:31:07

But that’s how proud, I’m so proud of these people when they wear these clothes now, that you don’t know. I love going, and when I’ve got my little ball hat in Montana, I don’t look like Jack Hanna, I don’t shave or nothing, anything like that. And I have a zoo person come out there, even in Montana wearing a Columbus Zoo outfit, people’ll stop them. In California, when I go out to eat with them, they by, I say, wear your outfit, I won’t wear mine, watch what happens here. Check in the hotel. “You’re from the Columbus Zoo? My gosh!” Yes, that’s because of media, but forget that. Locally, when they wear them here, they’re like a frigging astronaut. That sure as heck wasn’t the way in 1978.

02:31:07 - 02:31:26

And every zoo can be that way, I guarantee you, every zoo. Look at new Orleans, look at Brookfield Lincoln park. Look at, I could go on and on for you. And then, also, now I won’t name the other zoos you look at because no one’s gonna give you the time of day. Right, let me bring you back a little. Yeah, I need to be brought back. So much is good, you mentioned the AZA. Tell me about the panda incident.

02:31:26 - 02:31:44

Okay, (laughs) I figured that’d come up. The panda incident. That hurt me probably more than most people imagine. Not hurt me because I’m a baby. It’s because I had in writing, by the way, from Bob Wagner, and Bob was a friend of mine, yes, but Bob was also tough, that we could get the pandas.

02:31:44 - 02:31:45

Do you think I’m an idiot?

02:31:45 - 02:31:48

You think I’d try and get the pandas without the approval of the AZA?

02:31:48 - 02:32:09

I’m not that dumb, okay. And I’m gonna probably mentioned some names here, that that’s fine, the guys can watch it. I don’t care, really care, because these are also friends of mine that I think did this. So I had the letter from Bob. I don’t even remember who I showed it to when this whole thing went down. So it come to be about, I don’t know, people knew we were getting the pandas. It was 1992 for the celebration of our country.

02:32:09 - 02:32:12

1492 I got Columbus, Columbus, Ohio 1492, 500 years, right?

02:32:12 - 02:32:36

I guess I can’t add. Anyway, that was a big thing. Columbus went in and spent 10, actually it’s like a world’s fair. They spent a lot of money, hundreds of millions of dollars on that world, on this thing being celebrated here, our anniversary of our country. So I don’t know if it was me, I don’t remember. I’m not going to take credit for it. I said, you know, I saw the giant pandas on, the loans, the temporary loans they called them. And I said, “Well, maybe I’ll go try this.

02:32:36 - 02:33:13

“You know, for our 1992.” And I didn’t think anything about it. ’cause other zoological parks had done it, but it came to little old Columbus Zoo back in 1992, do it, and I think what happened was, I think the AZA knew that there’s a little old Columbia Zoo and they can make a point here, but the other zoos that had them, I won’t go back and name the names, just look it up in the archives, or if you want to, were a little bit bigger zoos, and better known zoos than us. So they weren’t gonna mess with those zoos, but they were gonna make a point, AZA was, with our zoo, to stop the short-term breeding loans. And yes, that was probably good. I’m not saying it was perfect. I’m not saying that we did anything wrong. And today, I think some of these animals that about going down the tube should be on short breeding loans. You know, not breeding loans, short loans.

02:33:13 - 02:33:16

Yes, the zoos made money off of it. Of course he did. You’re right.

02:33:16 - 02:33:21

Why, how’d the Columbus Zoo, by the way, I’ll get into it, start their conservation fund?

02:33:21 - 02:33:43

Because of giant, the little pandas. And real quickly. Yes, about a week before they were to come here. I think it was a week or 10 days. I think it was the World Wildlife Fund. I don’t remember, you can check out the archives, and change this. I’ll apologize to the camera now, I think is World Wildlife Fund, WWF, filed a lawsuit against the pandas coming. I think it went to a federal court by the way, which ended up in Columbus, Ohio where the federal thing is.

02:33:43 - 02:33:46

And we had attorney here, John Kuwas, who’s been our board for 30 years.

02:33:46 - 02:33:49

I said, “Jack, I’ll help you.” I never been in a courtroom, okay?

02:33:51 - 02:34:04

Judge Canary was a federal judge. I think he’s 80 something years old. He passed, a federal judge can pass them on the bench. And so I knew Judge Canary. He wasn’t a friend or anything, But I just, he loved canaries, so I’d take him a stuffed canary or something like that, not real one, just a toy.

02:34:04 - 02:34:04

And we just had a lot of fun, you know?

02:34:04 - 02:34:09

And he liked me, and that kind of stuff. But that made no difference who he liked, you know, the trial’s, a trial.

02:34:11 - 02:34:19

So it goes to the trial date, like five days before the panda, we’ve already built the thing, spent quite some money, you understand?

02:34:19 - 02:34:31

The community’s excited. All of a sudden they want to file suit and stop it. What did we do? Obviously it went to court. So the pandas I think were already on the way to the airport, to be staying there for awhile.

02:34:31 - 02:34:32

Make a long story short, went to court, right?

02:34:32 - 02:35:05

All of a sudden, ’cause people know about this thing. I walked in there, I had my tie on, and I’m real nervous, ’cause I don’t know what the heck I’ve done wrong. All of a sudden then, the trial starts, Judge Canary gets it, slams this thing down, he goes, “This is a thing between World Wildlife Fund “and the Columbus Zoo for having the giant pandas “brought here on a short-term loan da, da, da. “Would the opposing or whatever, “The World Wildlife Fund like to speak first?” They brought three attorneys, not one, but three of them sitting in the audience. I’m sitting there with one guy with us. The place was packed. No cameras allowed in the place. So they get up there first.

02:35:05 - 02:35:26

Their attorney goes, “Your honor, the.” he did the giant panda in Latin, by the way, used the Latin name for the animal. Okay, I don’t even know what it is, that shows you how dumb I am. Pandarus, whatever, who knows what it is. I’m just being funny right now. But that’s what he said. Judge Canary went on for 10 seconds. He slammed his mallet down. “Excuse me, sir, this is a courtroom, this,” (laughs) he said Panda bear.

02:35:26 - 02:35:28

“This is a panda bear in this court room from now on.

02:35:28 - 02:35:30

“Not the Latin name of the animal, okay?

02:35:30 - 02:35:44

“It’s a Panda bear.” Being nice, but firm, “It’s a Panda bear.” The guy starts off again for about two minutes. He used the Latin name again. Bam. He goes, “Excuse me, I said it once. “I don’t intend to say it again. “It’s a Panda bear to me, “and whoever’s watching this right now in the courtroom.

02:35:44 - 02:35:51

“Do you understand now?” “Yes sir, understood it.” And now, judge, “what’s going on?

02:35:51 - 02:36:07

“What’s what’s the objection here?” “Well, we’re bringing our two pandas, “we’re bringing two male pandas here.” I can’t remember. I’m sorry. I wish I remembered. Two or three years old. I don’t remember. Maybe it was a year old. I don’t, maybe it was two or three years. I think three years old. “We’re bringing two male pandas here, three years old. “And we don’t want to do the short-term loans.

02:36:07 - 02:36:10

“We don’t want breeding loans and that type of thing.” Or something like that, right?

02:36:10 - 02:36:40

Bam! Slammed his camera down, his mallet. He goes, “Excuse me, I’m a judge here. “I’m a federal judge, “but I’m not quite understanding the two “three-year-old males and the breeding with that. “I may be wrong, but I don’t think “the males can breed each other like that.” Courtroom laughed. He said, “Excuse me, no laughter please.” (laughs) But of course they laughed, I laughed. He was,he’s a common man. He’s going, “I don’t see how two male pandas gonna breed, “What’s the problem?” Like that, and the guy, the guy behind me, the other attorney, he goes, I heard him whisper this right out, to his buddy, this other attorney next to him.

02:36:40 - 02:36:43

He goes, “Pack your bags, we’re done.” Like that, you know?

02:36:43 - 02:36:45

And right then I go like, I just smiled, I didn’t, I keep my mouth shut.

02:36:45 - 02:36:47

And then finally he just went on, you know?

02:36:47 - 02:36:53

And he went on to what he was saying. Maybe some of it was right. You know, maybe they are, excuse my language, bastardizing the panda.

02:36:53 - 02:36:55

To me that wasn’t happening, okay?

02:36:55 - 02:37:07

That’s just me, Jack, Hanna. Others zoos probably thought that, or the guys at AZA board, whatever, big deal, okay. It didn’t take one hour. He slammed his thing down. The pandas are coming, period. That’s the end of the story next. You know, get the hell out of the courtroom, probably. You know? So I went out there.

02:37:07 - 02:37:09

Yes, we were happy. You kidding me?

02:37:09 - 02:37:11

What did, now what’d I do wrong?

02:37:11 - 02:37:32

All of a sudden I get kicked out of the AZA, the zoo does. They take away our newsletter for one year, or whatever it was. I don’t remember, take away whatever my membership was. I don’t remember that. But before they did that, we went to Cleveland and I’ll never forget, Steve Taylor was the head of the AZA then I think. The president. We were, they were meeting in the Marriott for their meeting or whatever they were. And then he came to us on the agenda.

02:37:32 - 02:37:37

We sat in a little boardroom at that, I forget, I think it was the Marriott, who cares?

02:37:37 - 02:38:07

In that boardroom there. I brought up Mel Dodge here at the Parks and Recreation, Ken Cook, who’s now rose to be one of the top vice presidents of Price Waterhouse. Pretty bright guy. I brought, I dunno, myself, I dunno, about five of us, that’s all went. And Steve walks in by himself to the room there and he goes, “Well, they’ve just spoken. “And right now we’re removing the Columbus Zoo from the AZA” that kind of thing. Ken cook, I’ve never heard him say one bad word in my entire life. I know this guy, like he said a bad word to them.

02:38:07 - 02:38:24

“Pack your bags, get the you-know-what out of here. “Now, everybody with me in this room, bam, big deal.” Slammed it down, walked and slammed the door. Steve’s there just sitting there. Got in the car, Ken didn’t say a word all went back to Columbus from Cleveland. Then we got back here, we had the meeting in the office. He said, “That’s it Jack. “You know, you can drop out whenever the hell you want to. “I don’t care. This is not right.

02:38:24 - 02:38:25

“This is not fair.

02:38:25 - 02:38:28

“What happened to other zoos “that had these animals on the, on the short term loan?

02:38:28 - 02:38:29

“You know why? I know why.

02:38:29 - 02:38:32

“Because we’re not much of anything right now, “to anybody, you know?

02:38:32 - 02:38:50

“We’re a pain in the ass, it seems like to everybody.” You know, he just went on and on. I didn’t even told Steve, this. Someone told me “Don’t be mad at Steve, Jack. “‘Cause he didn’t vote against you.” That’s not the point. I’m sure, I don’t know what, Conway was on the board then, I already don’t know. And I really don’t care who voted for or against, you know. But I know that we’re probably used as a, as an example, but here, here I get that award.

02:38:50 - 02:38:55

And I told you that was like me, Do I owe the AZA?

02:38:55 - 02:38:59

I would give anything to AZA that I know what they do. I also know the problems they have.

02:38:59 - 02:39:01

We have problems here at the Columbus Zoo too, all right?

02:39:01 - 02:39:23

We all do. But the AZA happens to represent all of us. And I just think we have to wake up and get to the, we have to have the SSPs, we have to have all that stuff. And we, and we put money into it, by the way. The Columbus Zoo does. And I hope we put a lot more money into it, but we have to remember who our audience are and why we’re all here. Why you are doing this today, for example. You know, to learn about my thoughts, and people’s thoughts who might disagree with me.

02:39:23 - 02:39:49

And that’s what life’s all about. All I know is what’s worked in Columbus. All I know is no one loves, or not say loves, respects the AZA and it’s, in my own certain ways as I do the AZA, because of that thing they did. Not because of what they gave me. If that’s what they thought, then I’m honored beyond anybody could ever be honored, by the way. I don’t care and whatever I’ve got in the near future. It aint gonna even compare to that, you know, that’s like me going to the moon. So I’m not sitting here tearing them apart.

02:39:49 - 02:40:08

I’m just saying we have to start working closer together. We have to start agreeing. We have to stop thinking that Jack Hanna’s wrong. Or I’m sitting here talking about maybe San Francisco having all the unions. But I do know that that can’t continue, you know, for this zoo to succeed. Not just the unions, I’m talking about who operates the zoo out there. You gotta have a leader to operate the zoo. And that’s a real neat lady out there right now.

02:40:08 - 02:40:22

And she’s, she needs her, our help. Everybody’s help. The other thing I’ll say to you on this one, as you can disagree with this one, when the tiger at the San Francisco zoo, I’m sorry, those boys broke in the dadgum zoo, on drugs, drunk and everything else after hours.

02:40:22 - 02:40:27

And yes, that moat was there for what, 20, 30 years, with those cats in it, nothing happened, did it?

02:40:27 - 02:40:35

What would you do if you’re in your backyard, grilling out, grilling with your grandkids, and some guy pops over the fence and says, “F you,” in front of your grandkids?

02:40:35 - 02:40:36

You know what you can do?

02:40:36 - 02:41:00

I guarantee you I’ve seen myself do things, in nature, we all know from what man can do. We’ve all seen people pick up cars when someone’s trapped under it. It’s amazing what the human body can do when it’s upset. We don’t know what the animal world can do. And that’s when the guy who’s now current director, which I can’t believe I opened my fat trap, who took over Lee’s place. Golly day. Dennis. Yes, Dennis, right, who I like a lot, by the way, but we’re sitting at the dinner table and I don’t know how it got into it.

02:41:00 - 02:41:01

I said, “You know something?

02:41:01 - 02:41:24

“I have no idea why in the world, “the AZA wouldn’t come to help those guys, “more than going out there and criticize him “and getting them all laid down in front of the media. “Because their thing wasn’t built right “and wasn’t done all that.” (laughs) He looks at me, he goes, “Jack, I’m the one in charge of that committee.” You know, usually I would feel like I had put my foot in my mouth. I didn’t feel that at all. I was just said, “Yes, I’m sorry. “I disagree with that. “I’m just totally sorry about that. “I’m sorry, that the AZA “didn’t stand up and work to help SeaWorld.

02:41:24 - 02:41:25

“Are you kidding me?

02:41:25 - 02:41:29

“If SeaWorld goes down with that,” You know what he said?

02:41:29 - 02:41:37

the federal court, it still hadn’t been settled, by the way, you know that with OSHA. They stated that that SeaWorld knowingly put Dawn in harm’s way.

02:41:37 - 02:41:44

Knowingly put Dawn, who lost her life to the, do we continue on this helicopter or what?

02:41:44 - 02:41:45

It’s okay.

02:41:45 - 02:41:48

Knowing that Dawn, do you realize what that will do the zoo world?

02:41:48 - 02:41:51

Why hasn’t the AZA stepped in more to help SeaWorld?

02:41:51 - 02:41:52

And come out there for it?

02:41:52 - 02:41:55

Why didn’t the AZA step in a heck of a lot harder with that guy in Denmark?

02:41:55 - 02:42:02

That upsets me. Why does Jack Hanna have to go out there on TV When some people were, “Oh gosh, our zoo can’t make a comment.

02:42:02 - 02:42:05

“Oh dear God, no.” Why couldn’t they make a comment?

02:42:05 - 02:42:06

Does somebody know something I don’t know?

02:42:06 - 02:42:31

We made a comment within 30 seconds of that being announced. Every single zoo in this country should have made a comment like that. I don’t care what they believe in that will not fly, I would love to debate anybody, whether it’s AZA or zoo person in this country. I’ll debate them in one split second. And I’ll be happy to get you a floor at Anderson Cooper or whatever show you want to go on, til you tell me how you can substantiate making room for an animal, by killing an animal, because you need a news, a gene pool or something.

02:42:31 - 02:42:34

Why does the media come to Jack Hanna rather than anybody else, do you think?

02:42:34 - 02:42:42

Trust me? I don’t know. You know, there’s a lot of people, very good to do that. Maybe he comes out, explains things in a simple way. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Not because I know everything.

02:42:42 - 02:42:44

I sure as heck don’t, you kidding me?

02:42:44 - 02:42:59

Most of the people in the AZA and these people that are zoo CEO of zoos, and curators could do circles around me. I mean easily, but I can sure debate them, when it comes to touch the heart, teach the mind, when it comes to the emotions of our visitors. I have no problem whatsoever debating at my age right now.

02:42:59 - 02:43:07

And I’m not saying I’m really good at it, but I just know this, if they’re that crazy to coming with me and tell them they support that kind of thing, don’t do it, because you know why?

02:43:07 - 02:43:13

It’s gonna hurt all of us. I can just, I can say what I can say, ’cause I know it’ll help all of us. I know that for fact.

02:43:13 - 02:43:16

But why in the world would you not go out and help San Francisco more?

02:43:16 - 02:43:53

“Oh, let’s go out and measure the moat, “and let’s all was take a stand, it Wasn’t long enough.” The damn thing worked for 25 frigging years, and no zoo in this world can tell me, when I open Africa up, we’ve done everything in the world we can to make sure that no one gets harmed, animal or person. But anybody sits in that AZA room, or meet with me right now, debating again, and tells me that nothing will ever happen to the zoo because it’s totally perfect, our habitats, is a liar. Don’t ever, don’t ever anticipate what an animal can and cannot do. All we can do is what we think can be done. All we can do is build our barriers so where people can at least see the animal. ‘Cause we go ahead and put up a block wall like this, and maybe look through a little window and see the animal. Oh, ‘course we can.

02:43:53 - 02:43:55

Look, but then what’s that doing?

02:43:55 - 02:44:02

That’s right back at square one on how we’re supplying our animals their natural, quote, habitats. Yes, that thing that happened in Pittsburgh was terrible.

02:44:02 - 02:44:03

You kidding me?

02:44:03 - 02:44:22

When a little kid fell in there, and I know wild dogs. I just got through filming them last year. I know what they can do. I’ve filmed them all over the world, and they’re a piranha machine, that’s all. You know, it was terrible that the lady, I think, I may be wrong, I don’t know, that set her child up there for a picture, and it happened. And it happened with even the overhang, that this kid bounced and bounced over.

02:44:22 - 02:44:24

Okay, that happened, all right?

02:44:24 - 02:44:46

The man, I knew the race car driver, you know, sometimes the drivers is playing, their dadgum cars will fly over the dadgum wires, and kill people in the audience, you know, but nothing is a hundred percent. We do the best we can. But don’t, let’s say, AZA, we should be out supporting SeaWorld because you know, if that ruling goes through that they knowingly put Dawn in harm’s way. So I knowingly put a keeper in there with the elephants.

02:44:46 - 02:44:53

All right, I mean, outside the elephants, or I knowingly put that window washer I saw in New York city last week, at the hundred-and-something floors, cleaning windows?

02:44:53 - 02:45:11

But for us in the zoo world, that verdict on SeaWorld, I guarantee you, we all sit back and go, “Man, why didn’t we give SeaWorld a half, “or $50,000 to help at least explore this thing?” We need to come together on things like this. Yes, they made a terrible accident at San Francisco, Or was that the zoo? Yeah.

02:45:11 - 02:45:12

San Francisco zoo?

02:45:12 - 02:45:30

Yes, It was a terrible thing that happened to that. That dadgum boy went down there. The boy got killed, wasn’t even on the drugs. But if you’re sitting there throwing stuff at your dadgum kids, and you’re doing a cookout and using the F word, your butt’s gonna fly over a 50-foot high fence, at least mine would. Now, Jack, you mentioned to me that you’ve gone to a lot of zoos to help them out.

02:45:30 - 02:45:38

And how can a small or a medium sized zoo, what can they do to be involved in conservation and?

02:45:38 - 02:45:43

That’s a great, great question. That’s, of all the questions you had today, it’s a great question.

02:45:43 - 02:45:45

What can the smaller zoos do?

02:45:45 - 02:45:52

Not today, ’cause I’m in the AZA meeting, I’m sorry to say, in five or 10 years, ’cause I’m always film in September. I wish I, I’m gonna start trying to get back to them.

02:45:52 - 02:45:56

But go to the AZA meetings like I did in the 1970s and ’80s, okay?

02:45:56 - 02:45:59

Go to them and see how the smaller zoos were treated.

02:45:59 - 02:46:01

Are you kidding me?

02:46:01 - 02:46:14

Other than Ron Foreman, a few of them, you know, we don’t need to, you don’t have a blue ribbons on, you ain’t no ribbons on, you ain’t got nothing on. You’re not a member of the board. You never have. May never will be. Remember you only got 200,000 visitors. You’re only looking on 50 acres.

02:46:14 - 02:46:19

You only do this and that, you’re not in SSP, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I’ve seen it. I felt it okay?

02:46:19 - 02:46:48

I’ve gone, and the last one I went to, I even still saw it. I think when I went and got my award in Chicago, I can’t remember where it was, that Marlin Perkins Award. I even went there a day early just to watch it. And that’s why I went there for, I did go to some of the meetings, yes I did. I went and watched some of these guys. I went and shook hands with people, not the big people because you know, a lot them know me, but I went and saw the little person, might’ve been nervous. Not because I’m Jack Hanna, just, I saw the little zoo, I’m not gonna name names, okay. In Mississippi, I would look for the ones that said Mississippi, Louisiana, not Louisiana, but little states.

02:46:48 - 02:46:49

You know what I’m talking about, that?

02:46:49 - 02:47:06

Maybe North Dakota, okay, let’s go there. I go up and say hello to him. “God can’t believe you came over to me.” I go, “Why? Why you can’t believe I came over to you?” “because we don’t have a very big zoo. “We just got accredited. “We’re not very big at all.” I don’t care how big you are. I don’t judge when I go to these zoos, what you guys do, I’ll just see your passion on the phone with me.

02:47:06 - 02:47:08

That could you come and help us?

02:47:08 - 02:47:32

You know, I’ll be out there to help you. You know, I’ll do what I can do. Just tell you what we did in Columbus. I don’t expect you to do like Columbus ’cause we’re the 14th largest zoo in the country and you’re, I don’t know, number 225, but you can still do the same thing, though, on a smaller basis. So you asked me about what’s can small zoos do. what can we can do is the AZA can, and they’re starting this by the way, they really are, I’ve seen a major turnaround the last five years, and every, it seems like everybody’s getting accepted right now. All of us working together.

02:47:32 - 02:47:47

Hopefully with this sustainability thing, we’ll work together, ’cause they’ll come back and kick us in a button about 50 years from now, because he know about that, and I know as far as the SSPs, gene pools, and everything else like that, but we better darn well start working together with smaller zoos, and also by the way, next question might be, what do you think about the ZAA?

02:47:47 - 02:47:48

The Zoo Association of America.

02:47:48 - 02:47:50

Yeah, what do think about that?

02:47:50 - 02:47:58

I’ll tell you what I think about it. I think a lot of them are good members. Do they have some ones that aren’t, you’re darn right they do. That’s up to the ZAA to decide what they want to do, but there’s a gene pool of animals.

02:47:58 - 02:47:59

We’re just, you know what we’re doing?

02:47:59 - 02:48:08

It’s very simple what we’re doing. We’re doing what, Indy car racing did when these formed a, remember, they took Indi, the Indianapolis, Indy five, whatever Indy car racing.

02:48:08 - 02:48:10

And they separated about 10 years ago. Guess what?

02:48:10 - 02:48:39

They’ve never gotten back. They’ve never gotten back. NASCAR has taken over a period, even though Bobby Ray Hall winning 500, he’s like my godson. So I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying, I wish they’d never separated. I think it’s bad that we can’t somehow, dear God, in heaven, like countries of the world right now talking about atomic bombs and stuff. Why can’t we get with the ZAA, the AZA, we know what we have, we know what they have. We all have one thing. We have animals. We have gene pools. Yes, there might be some inbreeding.

02:48:39 - 02:48:42

I know that in the ZAA, I’m not a frigging idiot, you know?

02:48:42 - 02:49:02

Yes, they do take some of their animals. They sell them to the public. I’m not no idiot. Not an idiot, it’s incorrect English, but still I’m a believer that we can work together. That’s all. And we are a member of, I am personally. And so our, by the way, I think a member of the San Diego Zoo, I think there’s some pretty big zoos that have people in the ZAA. And you know, whether I agree with everything? No. Do they agree with everything we do? No.

02:49:02 - 02:49:04

Do I agree with everything AZA, the AZA does?

02:49:04 - 02:49:11

No, but you know, I’ve learned that these AZA has done one heck of a job, but can’t we go and at least offer some stuff?

02:49:11 - 02:49:49

My understanding is by the way, the last few, the last few months that there were some AZA members at the ZAA meeting and they really were, they weren’t there just to boy spy and all that kind of stuff. But they were there to maybe see maybe how we could work together. And that was the most incredible thing I’ve ever even heard this year, by the way, how that’s maybe might be, quote, happening this by the way, everybody is April of 2014. So,I’m hoping that they can come together. I don’t agree with some of the, some of the people in that place. I don’t, I’m sure they might not agree with one or two in ours. I could name a zoo right now, by the way, that shouldn’t even be in the ZAA, the AZA accredit in this country. And I won’t, but I’ve been to the park.

02:49:49 - 02:50:29

Anyway, so I hope in the future, the next two to four years that we can come to something, they can still be ZAA, we can still be AZA but I think we could combine it, maybe, if we can’t, then they will keep theirs, we’ll keep ours, but we can still work together. I mean, we’re dealing some, something with serious stuff here, everybody. We’re dealing with animals that we need to have sustainability. We do need to have breeding places. And you tell me that there’s some private breed, oh, I’ve heard this word. Not necessarily the AZA, but other people in it, that said, we got to get rid of all these private breeders. That’s a stupid statement. You have the family in Texas, the I’ll think of just a minute.

02:50:29 - 02:50:55

The very wealthy family has a huge breeding compounds all throughout Texas. Yes, there are hunting reserves in Texas. I don’t agree with canned hunting at all whatsoever. I’m not an anti-hunter, by the way, I’m a pro, I don’t hunt, but I’m not against hunting whatsoever. Hunters give more money to conservation, than the AZA ever thought to give, the good hunters do, and their licensing, and everything else because the predator prey relationship has been blown apart. Let me add one thing. I just learned all this last two years. So I’ve been involved with a guy who’s president of Boone and Crockett.

02:50:55 - 02:51:12

Boone and Crockett does have their mounts, and how they judge Boone and Crockett. You don’t something? Go back into history books. Look in the 1920s, what Boone and Crockett did. The elk, the, the pronghorn antelope, the, not the bison necessarily, about four or five species were going into extinction because of over hunting.

02:51:12 - 02:51:13

What did Boone and Crockett do?

02:51:13 - 02:51:34

They stopped the hunting. I think it was under President Roosevelt. I’m not sure which one it was. I think it was him that helped stop Yellowstone ’cause I live in Montana, but I read this about Boone and Crockett, and went, holy mackerel. And it’s in history books, by the way, it’s not what they make up. They stopped the frigging hunting so they could have these animals come back to where then, because we have screwed up the predator-prey relationship. We all know that, human beings have. So we have to control certain animals.

02:51:34 - 02:51:53

In Ohio we have deer with antlers coming out of the side of their head. When I go to, when I send the people to New York here, they, I say, count me the number of deer bodies on the highway between me and Pittsburgh, if you would please. They came back last year with over 80 bodies on the frigging interstate. You know, that’s no way to have a deer die, or any animal. I couldn’t hunt a deer for all the money in Red China. Talk about the baby wolves.

02:51:53 - 02:51:54

The what?

02:51:54 - 02:52:15

Wolves. Yeah, wolves, okay. Right now I knew Ed Banks who put the first wolves in Yellowstone. I live 40 miles from Yellowstone for 10 years in the Stillwater valley. Cook City, the eastern part of Yellowstone is right behind me, 30 miles as I hike. The wolves were put in there. I think it was 22 of them. I can’t remember what it was. We never thought the wolves would come back that fast, ever, but they did, which is great.

02:52:15 - 02:52:41

Okay, so now the wolves had to be, I use the word control instead of huntings, okay. The wolves had to be controlled. I lived around ranchers. Ranchers wore these big old shirts with a bullet on the t-shirt, with a big red X, you know, kill the wolf. They were buddies of mine, that they thought I’d, they would, did everything in the world to get me to debate them. I’m not gonna do that, because the wolf back of, back when we first put them in there. They’re very hard to see in Yellowstone. They’re a very, a very shy animal by the way. But now today, now today you see the wolves in Yellowstone.

02:52:41 - 02:53:10

You’ll see them sitting on top of Hills. They’re not, by the way, so far in history that we know of, a wolf has never killed a person. This is the times, I did the 1900s until the day, in history that we know of. So these wolves now are becoming more and more habituated, which means like Dian Fossey with the gorillas, and then you’re more of an animal person than me. There now is a hike back in Montana, by myself, my wife, her days out in the back of the wilderness in Glacier. We moved from there to Glacier from Yellowstone. Anyway, the wolves are up there watching you more and more and more, you see they’re not running.

02:53:10 - 02:53:14

Why are they complaining about, the people, and the elk hunters about the, what the wolves are doing?

02:53:14 - 02:53:40

The wolves aren’t necessarily eating all the elk. Yes, they have killed quite a few. It’s the abortions that have happened because when the wolves are there, the elk are down there trying to graze. They go nuts. You know, they’re going nuts right now. And the wolves are affecting that as well. No doubt about that. Alaska though, I could never do this, but they, somebody has to, the wolves in Alaska, are even stable, even increasing with the helicopter hunting. Right now, you know what the zoo did, about the people need to know this in our country, the zoo in Anchorage, the only zoo in in Alaska, about four years ago, said, look, let us take some babies out of the wild.

02:53:40 - 02:54:00

You’re going to kill the parents and you’re gonna gas the den. ‘Cause that’s what they do. So they went and said, okay, we’ll do it. But the number of wolves in that den, the number was you gonna take, whether it’s four or 14 of them in that den. You’re going to take the little out Alaska zoo. So there are six of them, I think, in that den when the parents had to go, they took them the the zoo. They’re little ones like this. Now they’re like huge tundra wolves.

02:54:00 - 02:54:16

They sit there and you can not get around the lecture area. When they talk about the wolves three times a day. I mean, there must be the whole frigging zoo there. A thousand people listening to what the Wolf is. We grew up being the big, bad wolf. You know, my God, the Wolf, it’s a killer. It’s a terrible animal. Did you know the Wolf is one most social creatures on the planet.

02:54:16 - 02:54:38

They take care of the sick, the old, the newborns first. When they make a kill, they go regurgitate. They take care of those animals. They’re most social creatures on the planet. Yes, they are carnivore. And yes, they are becoming habituated. The governors of all Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have said, this, I’ve talked to one of the governors. If a Wolf goes in and harms a person or kills somebody, we will take out the wolves forever.

02:54:38 - 02:54:40

There’ll be no more wolves here. So we have a choice.

02:54:40 - 02:54:42

Do you want to control the wolf?

02:54:42 - 02:54:48

So our great grandkids can see an iconic animal of our country, or do you want them to kill somebody?

02:54:48 - 02:55:09

Which, by the way, this is me talking, Jack Hanna, if we don’t have a control, and thank God I don’t have to do it, ’cause I couldn’t. We’re going to have somebody to get wiped out. And when that happens, the wolves are gone. Also I am for state control of these animals, not the federal government. That’s a bunch of crap. When it comes to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, let them control the dadgum wolves. It’s in their states. Yes, they cross the borders, I ain’t no idiot.

02:55:09 - 02:55:13

And I don’t, and then the last thing, the Endangered Species Act is a great thing.

02:55:13 - 02:55:15

We have to have, look at the bald Eagle, right?

02:55:15 - 02:55:35

Look what happens when they’re getting ready to remove the grizzly this year from the, from the, ’cause the grizzlies come back incredible. The black bears come back and incredible. The mountain lion is coming back incredible. The coyote used to be in Kansas and west. In Tennessee, if I told you in 1950s, I saw a coyote. They’d’ve put me in the mental place. The coyote, I was there on Long Island, six months ago, hundreds of coyotes on Long Island. They’re adapting to our environment, these animals are.

02:55:35 - 02:55:52

If they are, you want them to be here, then everybody, we had to put some kind of control measure on it because we are the ones that screwed the whole thing up. So you don’t want these animals suffering, getting hit by cars, getting everybody say, let’s save the world like a lot of animal rights people, but you can’t hunt anything. Look at California, they outlawed hunting of the cougar, and all that stuff.

02:55:52 - 02:55:56

How many people been killed by a mountain lion in California in the last five years, three or four?

02:55:56 - 02:56:15

There gonna be more of them, too, by the way. And what happened to the lady and the diaper, when the coyote jumped across her fence two years ago, I think. She in the backyard, watching her kids out there play. The coyote picks up the child, thank God the diaper was wet. He had the, he had the baby going across the fence. The diaper broke. You know, that’s just the beginnings of this whole thing, everyone. And I’m not, I’m not for killing the wolves, but you know something, somebody has to control the wolf somehow.

02:56:15 - 02:56:26

And it needs to be the states, not the federal government, ’cause all these people go, the Animal Rights go, you cannot take these animals of the endangered species. They say, “Oh my God, that’s terrible!” Think about it. It’s a greatest thing in the world when an animal gets off your dangerous species list.

02:56:26 - 02:56:26

Why is that?

02:56:26 - 02:56:41

Because both the scientists, people like yourself, biologists have decided that the, hopefully the state as well, that these animals come back so well, not that you have to hunt them again. I’m not saying that. I’m saying delisting them when they come back in numbers is the greatest thing in the world.

02:56:41 - 02:56:43

It’s like you being told, hey guess what?

02:56:43 - 02:56:45

Mark, you’ve got cancer. You’ve gotta do chemotherapy.

02:56:45 - 02:56:47

Hey mark, guess what?

02:56:47 - 02:56:50

You’re off chemotherapy. Oh my God, Mark’s off chemotherapy. He’s gonna die.

02:56:50 - 02:56:54

No, it means you’re hopefully not necessarily cured, but you’re you see I’m coming from?

02:56:54 - 02:56:58

Sometimes we don’t use common sense in this business and it backfires on us.

02:56:58 - 02:57:07

You had mentioned about animal rights people when you were in Columbus, did you have to deal with animal rights people and what would you project for zoo directors and other people to?

02:57:07 - 02:57:26

Very good question. Now I didn’t back then because no one cared. Today? Oh yes. I have to deal with them because of maybe what we are today and maybe what I am, I don’t know. I just don’t know why I’m not the same, I’m the same person I am. You can come after me all you want to because I take my animals here and there. I’ve, Knock on wood again, I’ve never lost one animal. Haven’t even had an animal get sick in my 30 years of doing it.

02:57:26 - 02:57:46

I’m not saying something won’t happen. I’m not saying somebody got hit, hurt tomorrow. You’ll never see me in an interview ever, say that something will never happen in this zoo. Don’t, I encourage any zoo director. Don’t ever state that you’ll never have a death at your zoo. Don’t ever go that road, it’ll come back to a kick in the butt. So far, knock on wood, Columbus Zoo had, we had accidents here, of course we have. Every zoo has because it’s what we deal with.

02:57:46 - 02:57:49

Every race car driver has, you know?

02:57:49 - 02:58:11

We do everything we can to make our zoo safe and comfortable for the, both the animals and the people. But as far as the animal rights people, there are some good organizations, there really are. And I’ve tried to work with them. One example is very clear HSUS with head of it, tired right now, he’s become a friend.

02:58:11 - 02:58:16

And people don’t like that, some of these people, but he has, I’ll think of it, Wayne Purcell, all right?

02:58:16 - 02:58:24

Wayne, what we had in Ohio. This is a very good lesson for any zoo director to learn this. In Ohio, the car industry got blown out of here. We lost our number one industry.

02:58:24 - 02:58:26

Agriculture, the number of industry now, right?

02:58:26 - 02:59:04

Cattle, beef cattle, all, veal chickens, all sorts of agri farms in Ohio right now, grain, everything, and our state, our state relies on it. And so a do lot, and so do the family’s lives, by the way. All of a sudden Wayne came in here with a lot of money. I think it was issued to about four years ago. I was traveling a lot, I saw with the money they were spending on Wayne’s ads, which are very moving. It showed cattle down and showed a poor guy here, a dairy farmer who was one of the neatest guys in the world, Well a guy he had, some guy, somebody says he was undercover HSU or PETA, whatever, he stabbed at one of the cows to get up, with a pitchfork, to get him up, after being sick. You have to get an animal up. I’m not saying you use a pitchfork, but some animals go down, you’ve gotta get them up or they’ll die.

02:59:04 - 02:59:33

Like an elephant, an elephant go down, you don’t use a pitchfork to get him up, but you all know, you can’t have an elephant laying there, they’ll suffocate. Anyway, they got that on video. They got the, the veal, showing the terrible, you know how veals fill up a small box. They got the chickens stacked in their crates going to market this high. You have the downer calves, when you go to auction, if downer, animals that go down. You drag them out there on the truck and auction them off. He had this video that the agriculture department here, they’re about four, six, of them in charge of it. They head of (indistinct) how they’re getting ready to spend money, to fight his ads and all this kind of stuff.

02:59:33 - 02:59:38

I said, hold it, hold it, hold it. I called the governor, he’s a buddy of mine. I said, his assistant, Jay.

02:59:38 - 02:59:42

I said, “Can I have a meeting just “with the agriculture department just once?

02:59:42 - 03:00:00

“Okay, can I just do this?” And then Wayne came to see me at the zoo. He and I got in touch with, I never met the guy. He comes here. Kate, who works for me said. ‘Cause you know how some people wrote about Wayne, how he wears the undercover, secret, one of these recording devices. And he was came downstairs. He’s like, “I’ll only spend an hour here, Jack.” He spent seven hours here, not one hour. I said, let’s go behind the zoo scenes.

03:00:00 - 03:00:18

I wanna show you it all. I said, “You know something, Wayne, “we can work something out here. “I’ve talked to the agricultural guys. “The veal are in small things. “Let’s say we increase,” And Wayne started out in HSUS. “Let’s say we increase the veal boxes to raise the animals in. “Let’s say we don’t check stack the chickens six high, “maybe three high. “Let’s say we don’t, the downer thing should be stopped.

03:00:18 - 03:00:23

“Okay? I’ll help you with some of this stuff.” I went back to the agriculture department.

03:00:23 - 03:00:26

I said, “Why are you guys both sitting here “spending millions of dollars to fight each other?

03:00:26 - 03:00:47

“Is, you’re, the money could be going towards the animals. “This is stupid.” So you know what they did. They went down and worked together in 2015 and 16. They’re implementing the new veal things that, yes, it’s gonna cost the farmers money here, but it didn’t turn in some battle where Wayne wanted, they wanted, oh by God everybody wanted. You know, nobody wanted, the animals lost out basically, one way or another somebody did.

03:00:47 - 03:00:51

So Wayne still and I, we agree to disagree, but you know what we did though?

03:00:51 - 03:00:55

Two years ago or three, whatever it was, I said, “Wayne, can we agree on one thing?

03:00:55 - 03:00:59

“When something happens in as, at the zoos, “or SeaWorld, any waterpark, any of us, “can we just agree on one thing?

03:00:59 - 03:01:10

“That you and I can talk first? That’s all. “We may totally disagree and go to battle, “but can we just at least talk, okay?” You know what we did? We’ve talked three or four times now. The Zanesville thing, the Zanesville thing.

03:01:10 - 03:01:10

You know what happened?

03:01:10 - 03:01:34

I was there for three days. I actually had both my knees replaced because of it. Not because I’m a baby. I just been in Florida getting this knee, especially done, my left one, which is bone on bone, all kinds of problems with it. The doctor had gone in there and done some stuff on it, not just I had it done before, but really did some major stuff on it. I said I had this speech at Penn State tonight. I told him “I have to go to to it.” And I know this came up because my knee flared up. I couldn’t even walk. But then I could walk on a crutch.

03:01:34 - 03:01:45

I had to go to Penn State. I’ll sit down and do my speech. “No problem, Jack.” I got in the plane and got my surgery. All that crap done, minor. Flew into Penn State, did my speech, came out of there, signed autographs 10:30. My cell phone was packed.

03:01:46 - 03:01:47

It said, “What the heck’s going on?

03:01:47 - 03:02:16

I thought something happened to one of my kids. The Zanesville thing had happened. I go flying across here at a hundred miles an hour with a police escort, almost, from Penn state to here was almost two hours, at a hundred miles an hour. I got there, gunshots still going off all night long. You might ask me about the worst experience I’ve ever had. I hope no zoo director, anybody in the whole heaven has that happened to them. Where you have to see 62 animals, 60 I’m sorry, 52 loose and killing 48 of them. 17 bangel tigers, 16 lions, of I don’t know how many grizzly bears, three or four, leopards, I could go on and on for you.

03:02:16 - 03:02:33

It was beyond a horror movie. And yet you had that happen. You know what? Wayne called me. I said, “Wayne,” And I don’t know what down that next day we talked. I said, “Wayne, this guy was a hoarder. “I knew the guy was here, “but none of us knew the extent he was here. “So yes, I don’t know what happened. “I’m in Columbus, Ohio. I’m sorry.

03:02:33 - 03:02:43

“This is like two hours away from the top zoo, “And only a half hour away from the wilds. “This is like a frigging nightmare. “How could this happen, Wayne?” You’re right. Something has to happen. The rules, the laws.

03:02:43 - 03:02:48

Ask Wayne, how I helped him in Ohio, passing, when that happened, by that you saw what happened?

03:02:48 - 03:03:07

HSUS, I mean the governor of Ohio, we didn’t even have any laws, not because there’s governor Democrat or Republican. The point is we had the largest animal, the wild auction right up here in north of us, 75 miles. The Amish country. The largest wildlife wild animal auction in the country was up here once a year for the last 20 years. Well, they went after that right away.

03:03:07 - 03:03:10

Do you know how many tigers we found in private ownership after this?

03:03:10 - 03:03:12

The government, our government, the state government?

03:03:12 - 03:03:37

Over 200 tigers in people’s backyards, not two. Now, most of those either been gotten out of here illegally. But now as of February the first, the party was over. Now they go back to all these places. All we asked for, I took a lot of criticism from the, I don’t know, the ZAA, by the way, they came to the meetings. They are, they’re not excluded, but they have a certain rules. But the AZA, I don’t know if it was the AZA or whoever, some people didn’t, I’m not, and don’t quote me. I’m not seeing the AZA.

03:03:37 - 03:03:59

I’m saying some people did not want them involved in being anything like where they could be allowed to have their animals. Well, that’s kind of stupid because some of these guys are good breeders. I said, no, the ZAA’s involved in this. I told the governor, he’s a very good friend of mine, even though he’s a Republican, that’s, the point is that he, what he wanted to do, he wanted to wipe out everything. I don’t care if it was a giraffe or a gerbil. We’re stopping everything in this state.

03:03:59 - 03:04:01

When I went to the governor’s conference in Washington, DC, right?

03:04:01 - 03:04:30

This thing happened, I think in October, whatever it was, I was bombarded, this whole thing was like the only thing that went on in our country of the USA of America. This was beyond the worst publicity this state has ever had in its history. He said it went all over the world. “Jack Hanna issues order, shoot to kill.” The sheriff, when I got there, I said, “You use the word of control sheriff, please put a stop, to shoot to kill, but you have to do, we have to continue this. It’s dark right now, these animals are run all over the frigging countryside here with neighbors. These are people.

03:04:30 - 03:04:32

PETA went after me. How can you possibly kill us?

03:04:32 - 03:04:35

You kidding me? I cried! The snipers were crying the next morning.

03:04:35 - 03:04:40

What do you do when you have a 400 pound tiger running around the woods?

03:04:40 - 03:04:59

You know, things had to happen. It had happened immediately. It wasn’t one of these things, oh let’s wait til tomorrow, and see what we can catch. We would have killed people, human beings, by the way, you gotta listen to 9 1 1 calls I had to listen to. I think there’s a grizzly bear on I-70. I think there’s a leopard in my barn. This all happening within minutes. There’s right now a Cougar on our front porch.

03:04:59 - 03:05:24

And then finally that’s when the sheriff goes, “It’s all over,” the first sheriff to ever get up there, people don’t even know this. The first sheriff that got up there on top of that hill, where all heck was breaking loose, animals fighting each other, and everything else. The tiger came right on his hood. He didn’t have his gun drawn. He was sitting there trying to save himself inside the car. Then all of them’s, and then the snipers and command trailers, everything came in. But what I’m saying to you is that we have to learn better in the world, not just in the world that we all live in. You gotta be put your foot down somewhere.

03:05:24 - 03:05:31

I just think we need to be more aggressive in our real world of this what’s happening. But in the zoo world, animal world, we had to do something in Ohio.

03:05:31 - 03:05:34

And that’s where again, you asked me about the animal rights people, right?

03:05:34 - 03:06:03

So Wayne then asked me, “Jack, can we work with each other on this new law?” We made it to where people had to have a right fence, you know, a 12-foot, eight-foot, 12 foot high, whatever it was. Then they had veterinary care inspections twice a year that they lived up to certain things. Housing exceeded the USDA. We had six major ones, nothing really unfair. I got clobbered by a lot of the animal breeders in zoo world. Not necessarily the AZA, but I got, you don’t know what I got the terrible emails. You can’t do this. You’re gonna put us out of business. No, because most of the people were doing this.

03:06:03 - 03:06:25

Didn’t have the money to feed the frigging animal. And you know, as well as I do, people have these animals. I had them. Yes I did. But I, by God, I had the money to take care of my animals. I could tell you stories that were terrible. So yes, I believe that each zoo director, that if you’re a zoo director or whatever you want to be, whatever you want to call yourselves, curator, keeper. You need to understand something. That the wild animal thing is much different than it even was when I was young man.

03:06:25 - 03:06:39

It is a problem today. Overpopulation. We have people who just want it to be cool, and that kind of thing. And if that’s the case, then they need to be taken away from it. If somebody, by the way has, wants to raise African lions and they have $10 million to do it, they have to get their permit, raise African lions.

03:06:39 - 03:06:40

Let them help us. You kidding me?

03:06:40 - 03:06:52

If they want to raise bongo antelope, I don’t care if some even want to get in the SSP and raise gorillas, if they had the money. But 99% of them don’t have a damn dime to do anything. Let me ask you a hot topic question about elephants.

03:06:52 - 03:06:53

Should elephants be in collections?

03:06:53 - 03:06:58

That’s another good question. I just got off talking about this in Florida three days ago.

03:06:58 - 03:07:02

The AZA now finally has a place down there, correct?

03:07:02 - 03:07:13

They had one and we got blown apart because of social media. Didn’t want them in their area. So now they do have it. Yes, I strongly believe. Now, and I’ll say this in public. Most people wouldn’t, but at my age, I will.

03:07:13 - 03:07:15

Cynthia Moss, who you remember, Joyce Poole?

03:07:15 - 03:07:17

You must know them, right?

03:07:17 - 03:07:32

Go ask Cynthia Moss who helped her back in the 19-early-80s, when she first started in below Mount Kilimanjaro there, that park, I know it better than my own, anyway, ask her when she had her little car crushed to the ground by a tree, who came, we had no money, by the way, nothing.

03:07:32 - 03:07:33

I came back because I’d met her, all right?

03:07:33 - 03:07:50

I went on to film shot take the people, Africa, six of them. I’d never even been to Africa. I said, this girl is really doing some good work with elephant, ’cause they’re one of my favorite animals. The biggest animal on earth. Let’s send her two, I don’t know if it was 2000. I don’t know to me, it was like a $2 million. We sent it to her. We, and I became friends. We’d do, share letters, everything.

03:07:50 - 03:07:53

Where are Joyce Poole and her today?

03:07:53 - 03:07:54

Where do you think they are?

03:07:54 - 03:07:57

Did some animal rights people get to them. They zoos right now, they hate the elephants.

03:07:57 - 03:07:59

Why didn’t they hate us back in the 80s and 90s?

03:07:59 - 03:08:01

It’s all of a sudden we do something different?

03:08:01 - 03:08:30

There’s no doubt about it. That the elephants now, the way the AZA has done it, to let the people that have the money to raise the elephants. You have to have a lot of money to have an elephant habitat, you have to have a lot of money to take care of them. It is a huge frigging animal, obviously. It should be out there, maybe grazing hundreds of thousands of miles. I’ll tell you one thing, though, if you take the elephants away from zoos, you might as well take the animals off the earth, because the ones that I see in zoos, I don’t see them suffering and you know, I go out and film elephants in the wild. I got to come back home a and look after the elephants of the Columbus Zoo, or whatever zoo I go to.

03:08:30 - 03:08:35

Would I like to see all the animals in the world, out in the wild, it’d be great, wouldn’t it?

03:08:35 - 03:09:10

But the earth, the earth will have to switch before that ever happens again. The earth will have to disappear and come back. Well, I hope it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, but maybe later on, millions of years from now it’s gonna happen. But then you make your own judgment then. But right now, if you can’t learn to love and save an elephant and see an elephant, see that trunk, see that it has 30,000 muscles. See what I’ve seen in the wild, when I just sit there, when I’m, I got my time off and everybody goes, “Oh my God, he just likes elephants.” No, I like cats, I like, I like leaf cutter ants. I’ll watch leaf cutter ants by the hours, go two miles and carrying a little leaf, two miles. I’ll film, the film crew thinks I’ve got I’m on drugs.

03:09:10 - 03:09:34

I don’t do drugs. I just liked to watch the leaf cutter. I’m fascinated by creatures in the ocean, but elephants are, whether we like it or not, an icon species. I don’t care what you say. The panda is. Certain animals, I’m sorry to say, the koala, they’re icon species. And yes, we try to all have them and work with them and have them in our zoos. Some people can afford it. Some people can’t. Some people put them in on breeding loans. I used to agree, sisagree. I must tell you, back in the 80s when they tried to come and get some of our gorillas and do that.

03:09:34 - 03:09:55

But then as I said, Jack, calmed down a minute here, buddy. You know, they’re right. You know, we, I don’t want to get rid of Bongo, whatever it was, one of the gorillas. You know, I, this is terrible. He’s born here. But then I said, he couldn’t be happier. He could be with some females, he can do something. And so with all that said, you know, the elephants are really hard. I mean, they took the elephant, I think for the Alaska zoo.

03:09:55 - 03:10:25

I think that Tom Stalf who’s my new CEO, or two years here, he was up in NABI zoo. They had took his elephants. I think, I know they did. So I guess if you have the proper place for the elephants and we hope to make this second place up here, when we have a lot of room for the elephants, to bring them there. I don’t think, I hope Cynthia, and even Daphne Sheldrick, you know, I was, I’ve done two shows on her. I was in now, I’ve been told she doesn’t like zoos, either. Tippi Hedren, did two shows at her place. Now I understand she don’t like elements either.

03:10:25 - 03:10:27

Why all of a sudden, they don’t like elephants?

03:10:27 - 03:10:33

I mean, we’re trying to improve and try and do better with them. We’re trying to put them in bigger places. We’re trying to breed the African elephants to teach people.

03:10:33 - 03:10:42

Ringling, I know they don’t like that probably, but y’all I don’t care, knock Ringling all you want to, if you got that kind of money to do elephant research on the Asian elephant, which has gone from what?

03:10:42 - 03:11:08

Or the African elephant in 1978, I think I’m right about this. The African elephant is now going down to maybe 300,000. They were 1.4 million or something. I don’t know, way back in 78. And now the Asian elephant, I understand now, it’s gone down to, I don’t know how many, and all the Asian elephants now that I’ve ever seen all over Malaysia, India, all over the frigging place, a different Asian elephants. Those animals now are down to numbers that are frightening. It’s what they are. And most, all of them, by the way, are working elephants, not wild elephants.

03:11:08 - 03:11:10

So what do we do in all this case?

03:11:10 - 03:11:12

We better do something with the elephant.

03:11:12 - 03:11:16

You just can’t go, “Let’s put all the elephants in the wild.” Let’s, what’s happening now in Africa?

03:11:16 - 03:11:23

I know Cynthia that might have some financial problems. I can’t, I’m not gonna be hypocrite. I can’t sit here and send money to somebody that disagrees with everything we do here.

03:11:23 - 03:11:24

Are you kidding me?

03:11:24 - 03:11:27

I’d be an idiot to do that. But you know who suffers?

03:11:27 - 03:11:33

She suffers, the elephants suffers, And you and I that go along with it, we suffer. So no one’s winning on this.

03:11:34 - 03:11:38

What do you see as the principle contribution that zoos can make in society today?

03:11:41 - 03:11:44

The zoo’s contribution to society today?

03:11:44 - 03:12:18

Not because I love animals, not because it’s my job. It’s something that really, I wish every town and village could have, but they can’t. It provides, as I told you, a word that I call love. The problem with the world today is, is if we loved each other more, if we knew more about the animal world more, we’d all even be a better society. I’m not saying that people who don’t like animals, don’t like each other, but I hate to say this to you. I’ve seen it in other cultures throughout the world. When you see some of stuff in the Middle East, I love the Middle East, by the way. I love Israel, I’m not talking about Israel right now.

03:12:18 - 03:12:39

I’m talking about some countries, I’m not gonna mention. See how many animals you can find that country running around, dogs, cats, whatever. None. I was always told when I got my little Petie, my Petie, my first parakeet as a little boy, at five years old, before I got my two goats, my dad said, “Jackie you can have the parakeet. “That’s your parakeet, buddy. “And you will take care of that parakeet. “It’s a living creature. “That’s not something that is on your wall.

03:12:39 - 03:12:46

“You take care of it every day. “You feed every day and it’s gonna live its life here. “Do you understand that?” “Yes, sir, I understand that.” That’s how I started learning about the animal world.

03:12:46 - 03:12:49

What do I think about families having dogs or cats?

03:12:49 - 03:12:55

I think every family should, but every family can’t. Some are allergic to it. Some can’t afford it. Some don’t live in the right places. So do I think you just have a fish? Yes, I do.

03:12:55 - 03:12:57

That’s my personal opinion because why?

03:12:57 - 03:13:00

It teaches love. It teaches responsibility.

03:13:00 - 03:13:02

You know what else it teaches? death?

03:13:02 - 03:13:22

I never forget when Petie died, All of us are exposed to death in our lifetime. Just hopefully you’re exposed to it before one of your parents die. Grandparents are one thing, that’s hard to accept. Then the worst thing, that your, or a sibling, Try that someday, or try a child, losing a child someday. What does the animal will teach us, at home if we have pets and stuff, that’s what it teaches us. All those things.

03:13:22 - 03:13:22

What’s a zoo do?

03:13:22 - 03:13:47

A zoo teaches you love, believe it or not. You, how many kids come up here and say, “Dad, I love that elephant, Dad, I love that. Oh my gosh, how can I help, or not even the kid doesn’t say it, the parents might say that. Or the zoo camps we have here with children. We never had that when you and I started. There was no zoo camps for kids. We can’t even when, our new camps are full now. Our zoo classes during the year are totally full now because people, someone made a comment in our town the other day because of this levy thing.

03:13:47 - 03:13:52

You know what, our problem is, we love the zoo, but we need to learn more in the classroom.

03:13:52 - 03:13:54

Are you kidding me? The classroom?

03:13:54 - 03:14:01

The classroom is here. They didn’t know where the classroom is. That’s why in Great Britain where my kids, two of my kids live. But most of them live here, the grandkids, they are educated.

03:14:01 - 03:14:02

You know what they do?

03:14:02 - 03:14:27

One hour every day in those schools, in England, by the way, their, is an incredible education program. They go into a bird park, a rabbit park, a little farm every day, almost. I’m sorry, three days out of the week, they go to visit some animal things. Not just animals, go in the woods. I’m sorry to say in today’s world, you better darn well, go have a zoo because you don’t, go ahead and let them learn on the computer. Let them sit inside their house and play their games. I don’t have one. So people think, oh, I’m just bitter ’cause I don’t have a computer.

03:14:27 - 03:14:46

No, I’m not bitter at all. I watch my grandkids did, my both my daughters, shut it down, buddy. You can have your computer one hour a day. You could use for your schoolwork, but don’t ever let me see, unless we’re driving in the car, don’t ever let me see you on that thing. My daughter, now those kids, going into the countryside of England, and do their hiking and walking. Even if their parking where they live in the city, but that’s what the zoo is.

03:14:46 - 03:14:48

They are here. Why are we up here in Columbus?

03:14:48 - 03:15:09

Because they’re not at home watching TV. I don’t care if they do watch my dumb show, or my great show, bad show, whatever, any show. I don’t care. Really, I don’t. I just as soon see him come up here and bring their families up here to see what was on planet earth before we were, basically. I don’t want to get in some religious thing here on on the evolution, and all this. I’m not saying, I’m a believer by the way. No doubt, what I’ve seen, I know there’s a creator. I know there is.

03:15:09 - 03:15:33

I know there’s evolution too, but you’ve got to come up here to learn about the animal world. You’ve got to come up here to love it. And you’re not gonna do that in a book or my show. You’re gonna do it by seeing the elephant, smelling the elephant, going around here and touching the animal, by the way, and someone told me this, and I know this is true. I won’t say both of them. Someone said we shouldn’t have petting zoos. And I’m not saying the AZA way back when. Someone even said, I think you remember this, that we shouldn’t be naming animals, it’s a person you and I know.

03:15:33 - 03:15:34

they should have numbers.

03:15:34 - 03:15:35

Are you kidding me?

03:15:35 - 03:15:55

When I heard that I said, not this zoo. We’ll drop out of everything. Oh, this is a SSP number 1 0 2 5, the elephant. You would, (laughs) I don’t even, this is what I’m talking about. You have to relate to these folks. And that’s what the zoo does. It’s not just an economic driver. Some people now that moved to a city, we came here.

03:15:55 - 03:15:57

Well, you know, back in the old days, it wasn’t always a zoo.

03:15:57 - 03:16:00

But some people move here and say, “Oh, how’s the school system” Is there a sports team here?

03:16:00 - 03:16:03

“Is there a nice hospital here?” I mean, this is what your family wants to know.

03:16:03 - 03:16:04

Is there a zoo here?

03:16:04 - 03:16:29

And everybody can’t have a zoo, I know that. But I’ve seen little towns have these zoos that are absolutely outstanding. They’re only on three or four acres. The animals might not have 5,000 million acres, but they don’t need it, some of the animals they have there. They have their wile animals there, Not the run, not of the elephant running around. So I’m telling you something. The zoo world is beyond important to society. Beyond important to your community, or your state, or your city or whatever you want to call it in this country.

03:16:29 - 03:16:47

And now we have proved it. 176 million people like it, all right. It’s not like something going down the hill, it’s going now to where we’re having a hard time handling it. And I hope it gets harder. I hope there are some more zoos, but we better darn well know something. This is a serious business we’re in. Yes, it’s fun to me. But you know, I know the severity of it.

03:16:47 - 03:16:57

I know the severity of what it means for these kids not to ever see an elephant, or not to ever see these creatures. It goes like, I’ve always said, what happens in the animal world will happen to the people world. It’s that simple.

03:16:57 - 03:16:59

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

03:16:59 - 03:17:04

Whoo, my proudest accomplishment. In the zoo.

03:17:04 - 03:17:06

I wish you, how do you come up with these damn questions?

03:17:06 - 03:17:08

In the zoo world, right? That’s a better.

03:17:08 - 03:17:11

What is my proudest accomplishment in the zoo world?

03:17:11 - 03:17:51

My proudest accomplishment is, if nothing else, for myself, I guess, is that people have learned, I think appreciate, most people, about what I’ve done. I use the word, I guess, what we have done at the Columbus zoo. I can’t relate to other zoos obviously, but we, what we have done here to take this zoological park getting ready to close its doors and seeing what it is today. You asked me about my proudest accomplishment. I’ll tell you what I do. Starting, right now ’cause the weather changing, I will come home from lunch. Oh, I’m only here about 67 days a year, by the way, 60 to 70, but I’m in touch with this place every day from all over the place, but I’ll come here by myself in the evenings. I’ll walk around the zoo. I’m not being corny.

03:17:51 - 03:18:19

I’ll literally start crying, not because I’m older, because I don’t believe what I’m seeing. I don’t believe with the citizens of this county and this state, there are other zoos here too, by the way. But that is my proudest accomplishment. Not my TV shows by any means, no. But by this zoo, me having a part of it, just a part of seeing what is here today versus back then. And if I left this earth tomorrow. I can tell you something. And I want you every zoo director, or anybody that works in a zoo, that is what life’s about, everybody.

03:18:19 - 03:18:43

You don’t understand this til you’re older. So who I’m talking to, you by the wall. That’s okay. Trust me. As you get older, you’ll understand that when you leave here, you can leave here with your pockets full of money, all of the big houses of the world, everything you went to, but you’re going to go in that little old box, or wherever you’re gonna go. And you ain’t taking nothing with you except what you’ve left behind. And I hope that I’ve left behind here a zoo that we enjoyed by hundreds, many generations in the future. And it will change as well. But at least we got the thing started.

03:18:43 - 03:18:55

That’s my only accomplishment I can say, in my whole life, and I have a great family, and great friends and you know, that’s my accomplishment was the Columbus zoo and the Lord sent me here for that probably. And if I did it, I did it. I didn’t, then history will show.

03:18:55 - 03:18:58

Would you read this quote for us please?

03:18:59 - 03:19:05

Oh boy, let me see if I’ve got my, I gotta put my glasses on.

03:19:05 - 03:19:06

This right here, right?

03:19:06 - 03:19:57

It’s the last one. Yup, hold on a minute now. I’ll get my eyes adjusted. You people watching don’t understand it. I didn’t understand it either till I got older, this is terrible. To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics, and endure betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a deemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. To know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That’s a little girl I said goodbye to and went to heaven eight days after I met her. That’s what that means.

03:19:57 - 03:20:03

This is to have succeeded. I guess what you asked me, says it all.

03:20:03 - 03:20:06

When you’re reading the quote, what does it mean to you?

03:20:06 - 03:20:22

Well, (laughs) the respect of intelligent people, I always wanted some respect when I first came in. I get chills when I think about this, ’cause I knew I didn’t have respect, but now I think I have some respect from intelligent people. You know, that I really think that.

03:20:22 - 03:20:24

The affection of children? Are you kidding me?

03:20:24 - 03:20:36

I know I have that because I know how children, not just me, but any part of yourself in the zoo world, any zookeeper, anybody has the affection of children. If you’ve done your right thing. To win the appreciation of honest critics.

03:20:36 - 03:20:37

You know something?

03:20:37 - 03:20:48

That’s powerful for me because I did have my critics. I probably still have a lot of them. When you do what I do, you’re gonna have critics. I’m a big boy. I know that. But some of them that really criticize me and stuff have even come up to me, and I won’t mention any names.

03:20:48 - 03:20:49

He said, “Jack, you know something?

03:20:49 - 03:21:06

“I’m sorry what I thought about you years ago. “Yes, you did some stupid things, “but at least right now you’ve done things “that we think are great.” That’s beyond, that’s beyond any money in the world could give you, or we can forget the money, anything. Betrayal of, to endure the betrayal of false friends.

03:21:06 - 03:21:09

Yeah. Like my TV series, I worked 12 years on?

03:21:09 - 03:21:35

Yes, it was something for my family to get education stuff at the end, but there was nothing. And that hurt more than anything in the world. A guy like my brother. Yeah. It appreciation, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others to leave the world a bit better. Whether by a healthy child, garden patch or redeemed social condition. To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others. When I walked through Glacier and I see, what I see that haven’t been touched for millions of years.

03:21:35 - 03:21:36

Are you kidding me?

03:21:36 - 03:21:45

That’s why I go out there by myself and my wife. That’s our, that’s our biggest thing in the world, to go out there in Glacier by ourselves. Where not many people go back to that place. To leave the world a bit better.

03:21:45 - 03:21:46

Sheldon, what I just tell you?

03:21:46 - 03:22:22

A bit better, whether a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition. I know for a fact, the zoo is much better than it was. I had some part to play. Not everything took a lot of people to do it, but I should tell you now that is a redeemed social condition. Then when there was all kinds of stuff going on at this place, the music park next door, we now have one of the top water parks in the country. It was a place for drugs, everything else, back when I got here, that is beyond an incredible park now, that people have fun in and their families go to. To know even one life breathe easier because you have lived. Even if it’s at one girl, little girl I was with, if it was that, just that one.

03:22:22 - 03:22:30

That was my whole life right there. My own daughter, you know the same thing. This is to have succeeded. That’s right there in a nutshell.

03:22:30 - 03:22:32

Did you have one last question?

03:22:32 - 03:22:35

What do you know about the profession that you’ve devoted so many years of your life to?

03:22:35 - 03:22:44

Let me, all right, let’s let that go on by. The reason you’re hearing trucks here, everybody watching this, is because we’re building this Africa, and everybody’s a little nervous right now because it rains every single day. And now we’re turning it into an Ark.

03:22:44 - 03:22:46

The, what’s the question (laughs)?

03:22:46 - 03:22:49

Do you know about the profession that you’ve devoted so many years of your life to?

03:22:49 - 03:23:17

I know that the profession today, I’ve devoted so many years of my life to is an incredible profession. I encourage anybody and everybody that ever wants to do something. And by the way,go work at a vet clinic, go walk dogs, okay, go do something for a hospital. Go and visit the parks. Go to a SeaWorld camp or go to Bush Gardens Camp, or come to Columbus Zoo camp. A lot of zoos have the camps. Go there and see yourself if you really want to do this. Don’t think that you want to do this and pursue an education without ever trying it.

03:23:17 - 03:23:38

Like I did. All of us love animals. I mean, most everybody does, but to take it to that next level, you might want to do what I did. Not the TV, forget that crap. I’m talking about to do it, I feel so proud of, I didn’t mention one word about TV. He didn’t know about what I’m so proud of. Yes, it’s neat to see how educate millions of people. But I’m so proud of what I live my dream of being a zookeeper.

03:23:38 - 03:24:07

Not a zoo director, or curator, all that other stuff. I just dreamed about being a frigging zookeeper. That’s all, and I got to live that dream. So you will live it too. You will live it too. Trust me, but don’t go out there and just go to college, take my zoology, get my master’s in biology, get my master of doctors without ever trying it. Don’t go do that route, everybody, because you don’t know until you got in the guts of it, volunteer at a zoo, going do an intern program like we do here. There’s all kinds of things that you and I couldn’t do back then. They weren’t existing, intern at a zoo, you’d get your, they’d laugh at you.

03:24:07 - 03:24:25

You’d probably be pushed out by the keepers. But now today we accept our interns. Most all zoos do. We accept those people who want to volunteer. We accept those kids that want to do our zoo volunteers up until age 13, where they can then start working after that. So make sure you understand this of what it involves before you might want to do what we do.

03:24:25 - 03:24:28

And yet it is something a lot of people want to do, but you know what?

03:24:28 - 03:24:36

I admire that person the most, that tells me when they worked here for one month, I admire that person most that comes to me and says, “You know something, Mr. Hanna?

03:24:36 - 03:24:40

“This just isn’t working out like I wanted it to work out. “This just isn’t working out like I want it to work out.

03:24:40 - 03:24:43

“Can I can I, can I leave?” You know what?

03:24:43 - 03:24:51

I’ll find that person a job quicker than the guy that sits there and makes it miserable for everybody else. Let me know if you don’t like it you’ll be the best employee there is by doing that.

About John “Jack” Frederick Hanna

John “Jack” Frederick Hanna
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Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: Columbus, Ohio

Director Emeritus

Jack Hanna served as director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from 1978 to 1992 and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating the zoo’s quality and reputation. He currently serves as director emeritus.

In 1983, Jack was invited to appear on Good Morning America following the birth of baby twin gorillas at the Columbus Zoo. He accepted and became a regular guest and wildlife correspondent. Jack has made countless television appearances since then on shows such as The Late Show with David Letterman, Larry King Live, The Talk, The Maury Show, Fox News Programs, and CNN News Programs.

Over the years, Jack has hosted three television shows. Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures ran for 10 years and is still currently in syndication. Most recently, the Columbus Zoo and Nationwide Insurance have partnered to sponsor the Emmy Award winning Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild and a new show on ABC, Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.

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The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive or those acting under their authority.