Jack Hanna coming to Peoria

DeWayne Bartels

Jack Hanna, host of “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” TV show is coming to Peoria Sept. 21 with some animal friends to help raise money for the Peoria Zoo.

Hanna said he is excited about making a return visit to the zoo. Hanna was here before the new Africa Exhibit opened, hosting a fund-raiser for the zoo.

“I’m anxious to see it,” Hanna said.

Hanna said his schedule is crazy, but he had a choice.

“I’m speaking near Peoria. I could lay around a hotel room resting, or I could come to Peoria,” Hanna said. “I love talking to people and visiting zoos, so I’m coming to Peoria.”

Hanna said the value of zoos are obvious. He said zoos across the nation bring in 156 million visitors annually.

“That’s more than all professional sports combined,” Hanna said. “But, their importance goes beyond that. Education is first. If people are not educated about animals they don’t understand conservation. Animals are being crowded out of their habitats. They are going into extinction. Zoos teach us about that. Zoos are about discovery.”

Hanna said he plans to talk about his life with animals.

Hanna got his first job at 11 working for his family veterinarian, Knoxville, Tenn. He cleaned cages, and said he loved it.

After college and getting married Hanna opened a pet store in Knoxville, but wanted to work at a zoo. Eventually the offer came and he jumped at it. In 1978, Hanna answered an ad for a zoo director in Columbus, Ohio and his around the world animal adventure was launched.

He began transforming the zoo and in 1983 appeared on “Good Morning America” in New York following the birth of baby twin gorillas at the Columbus Zoo. He has been a regular guest and wildlife correspondent ever since.

In 1985, he appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” for the first time and became a regular and is also a regular guest on regularly on “Larry King Live.” 

In 1993 he became the host of “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” a nationally syndicated television series. After 10 plus years with that show he started a new TV series, “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.”

The Peoria Zoo, which now includes the Africa exhibit, is a $32 million project. The zoo needs to raise another $5 million to  complete a new 7-acre entrance.

Catherine McGeehan, director of development for the Peoria Zoo, said she is very excited by Hanna’s return to Peoria.

“Jack is back. We have enough time with him to host a private event.”

For those wishing to attend a meet-and greet at 5 p.m. in the Zimbabwe River Lodge, in advance of the show, and reserved in-the-front seating tickets are $125.

The show will begin at 6:30 in the Glen Oak Amphitheater. Hanna is bringing animals with him to show and talk about.

McGeehan said those attending the amphitheater show are invited to come early. The gates, she said, open at 5 p.m. and there will be food, beverages and live entertainment.

Tickets for the main show are $25 for adults and $15 for children in advance. At the door adult tickets are $30.

McGeehan said the money raised by this event will go toward financing the new entrance.

“We’re doing very well at the zoo. We’re having outstanding attendance, beyond our goal,” she said. “It seems the community has really gotten behind the zoo.”

.