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Go wild with Jungle Jack

Special to the DailyJack Hanna does between 90 and 110 shows per year and will be at the Vilar Center for the Evergreen Ball benefitting the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
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Jungle Jack Hanna loves intimate theaters like the Vilar Center.

“That way if something gets loose, I can catch it,” Hanna said.

Hanna is bringing his “Into the Wild … Live!” stage show to the Vilar Center for the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Evergreen Ball. He’ll bring nine wild animals, so they might get loose but not likely. They’re mostly endangered species. There’s a cheetah, a snow leopard, caracal, a sloth, a kangaroo, a baby white tiger, a clouded white leopard and … get this … there are six honey badgers in this country, and he’s bringing one of them. Let’s not forget the alligator, porcupine and anything else he can transport.

The video clips will be punctuated by stories and animals and more stories.

Hanna is America’s zookeeper and built the Columbus Zoo into the country’s top zoo. He’s the star of syndicated television shows and author of a dozen books.

And he’s hilarious.

Hanna is originally from Tennessee, and he and God’s creatures have been working with one another since he was a lad.

He took his donkey, Doc, to college and left with his adorable wife.

“I didn’t ask anyone; I just did it. I just tied Doc out behind the fraternity house and took care of him,” Hanna said.

Doc became the cheerleaders’ mascot and his future wife was a cheerleader, which worked out well because Hanna played a little college football.

“Doc was instrumental in getting us together,” Hanna said.

They just got back from Zimbabwe, where they were filming.

“Did you know you can now hang your body off Victoria Falls?” Hanna asked. “She did it. I didn’t. She loves stuff like that.”

They have three daughters and six grandchildren who think it’s normal to feed a rhino with a baby bottle.

“The kids have been raised with it. It’s normal,” Hanna said.

He’s not one of those gloomy singers in the End of the World Glee Club who preach that the apocalypse is near. It’s not, he said.

“It’s improving in many parts of the world,” he said.

Hanna does between 90 and 110 shows per year, travels to 20 to 30 states and is on the road 260 days per year – 29 years on David Letterman, 30 years on “Good Morning America,” the show’s longest running guest.

“I deal with animals with respect. If you respect the comfort zone of an animal and your own comfort zone, you’re usually fine,” Hanna said. “You have to be careful and respectful.”

As a child, Hanna spent his days cleaning animal cages for his local veterinarian and exploring the creek behind his house.

He and his TV crew have been to Africa more than 40 times. His favorite excursion is hiking up to observe mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

Hanna’s stage show will highlight the fourth annual Evergreen Ball, a benefit for the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

“Jungle Jack is one of the foremost authorities in wildlife habitat protection, and this stage show is super entertaining and extremely funny, while also spreading a positive conservation message,” said Jason Denhart, director of communications and development for the Land Trust.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust holds 24 parcels and 6,500 acres of protected lands under conservation easements in Eagle County.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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