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'Jungle' Jack Hanna brings the wild to DeKalb

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 3:10 p.m. CDT
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(Provided photo)
Jack Hanna will be at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., DeKalb, at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are selling well and anticipation is building for the next visit from “Jungle” Jack Hanna and whatever exotic animals he might bring.

Alex Nerad, the Egyptian’s executive director, said Hanna is making a return trip to the historic theater.

“This will be his second visit here, but the Midwest Museum of Natural History brought him to Sycamore High School a couple of times,” Nerad said. “We partnered with the museum the last time he was here.”

Nerad said the feedback from the public was so positive, the two groups decided to combine their efforts again to bring Hanna back.

“There are rumors he may be retiring,” Nerad said. “This may be the last chance we have to get him here.

“We’re telling people if they think they might want to see him, they will definitely want to get tickets.”

Bethany Gilliam, manager of operations for the Midwest Museum of Natural History, said she is excited for Hanna’s return to DeKalb.

“Jack Hanna’s main draw is that he talks to people in normal vocabulary,” Gilliam said. “He has a great way of explaining animal behavior.”

Hanna has been providing those explanations for many years, from the time he and his wife, Suzi, bought a pet shop in Knoxville, Tenn. From there, he went on to direct a small zoo in Sanford, Fla., and then in Columbus, Ohio. He still serves as director emeritus for the Columbus Zoo.

After appearing on “Good Morning America,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and other popular TV shows, Hanna became the host of “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures” in 1993. The show’s run lasted 10 years.

In 2007, “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” an unscripted series, began. The show earned an Emmy for outstanding children’s series in 2008.

Although Hanna travels the world in search of animal adventures, he still calls Columbus home, according to his website, www.jackhanna.com.

Gilliam said she fondly remembers feeling, even as a youngster, Hanna’s love and compassion for all animals.

“What you can expect during his show is to learn about why it’s so important to care about all animals, whether we like them or even know about them,” Gilliam said.

She said they don’t have any advance knowledge about what animals Hanna will show and discuss.

“We do get some type of preview, but nothing is ever promised when you’re working with live animals,” Gilliam said. “You never know if an animal is having a bad day.

“I can’t put that anticipation out there and then have the audience not see a particular animal.”

Nerad said Hanna always brings unique animals.

“Whether it’s a 100-plus-year-old tortoise or a cheetah, it’s pretty cool to see those unique animals,” Nerad said.

No matter what animals Hanna brings along, though, he’s sure to deliver an engaging presentation, Gilliam said.

“I can guarantee that Jack could bring a common house cat and teach you something about it,” she said.

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