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Wildlife advocate Jack Hanna brings live animals to Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb

DeKALB – A nearly sold-out audience greeted famed zookeeper “Jungle” Jack Hanna at the “Into the Wild Live!” event Saturday at the Egyptian Theatre.

Based off of Hanna’s hit TV show, “Into the Wild,” the event featured Hanna introducing and discussing several animals from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, where Hanna serves as the zoo director. The event also featured several videos that displayed Hanna’s work with wild animal observation and rescue.

Attendees had the chance to see several animals onstage that normally are not seen in the DeKalb County area, including a lemur, sloth, armadillo, bearcat, kangaroo, penguin and cheetah.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to see and hear more about these distinct animals.

“My favorite part [was] just being able to see the live animals onstage,” said Mary Coffey, 66, of Batavia. “I’ve seen him on TV before, and I enjoy [Hanna’s] humor and his knowledge.”

Other attendees enjoyed being able to share Hanna’s show with their children after learning from him when they were growing up.

“I remember watching Jack Hanna as a kid,” said Krista Maftzger, 43, of DeKalb. “So it’s neat to come back and see him.”

Sara Frey, 41, of DeKalb said she and her daughter, Helen Frey, 7, were as interested in a high-profile talent such as Hanna being brought to town as they were in the animals.

“We’re happy that [the Egyptian Theatre] could bring such a big name to DeKalb,” Frey said.

Alex Nerad, executive director of the Egyptian Theatre, said the event catered to a wide variety of audiences, which is something the theater strives to provide.

“There’s not a lot of events out there where you can have 2-year-olds and 92-year-olds in one setting,” Nerad said. “It really promotes the Egyptian as a centerpiece of the community.”

Nerad said staff and volunteers from the Egyptian Theatre also enjoyed having Hanna back at the theater for his “Into the Wild Live!” event.

“He’s fantastic to work with. You can really tell that they are passionate about animals,” Nerad said. “Personally, it’s always fun to see the animals up close. It’s not every day that we have a cheetah up onstage.”

Hanna said he chose to return to the Egyptian Theatre for his live show tour because of a positive history at the venue with previous shows.

“The people are so nice here – and so organized,” he said. “I love coming here. … I love this theater.”

Hanna said he truly enjoys providing these shows for audiences because it gives him the opportunity to educate and inspire audiences of all ages to learn more about wild animals.

“My whole life is dedicated to trying to educate young people,” Hanna said. “I always dreamed about being a zookeeper. That’s all I wanted to be. I love what I do. I’ve been very blessed to live a dream.”

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