NORWALK, Conn. -- The audience went wild Wednesday as "Jungle" Jack Hanna brought several of his animal friends to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk for two lectures.
Hanna is chairman emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He is known for his wildlife shows "Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures" and "Jack Hanna's Wild Countdown," as well as his numerous appearances on "Good Morning America" and "Late Night With David Letterman."
During his presentation Hanna brought out and discussed a wide variety of animals, including two lemurs, a great horned owl, a tortoise, a two-towed sloth, a binturong, a kangaroo, a wallaby and a leopard. He also shared clips from his wildlife shows where he visits gorillas in Rwanda and a dog sanctuary, and an animal blooper reel. He talked about the animals and their lives, as well as conservation efforts to preserve natural habitats around the world.
"I love talking to people, and I'm truly blessed that I get to travel the world and do this," he said. He performs many similar shows a year, and this is his second appearance at the Maritime Aquarium.
"Aquariums like this are few and far between, You've got a magnificent aquarium here. They're very expensive to operate, but they bring you the ocean world," Hanna said.
Most zoos in the 1950s and 1960s were in poor condition, he said, but they have greatly improved over the years. There are now 221 zoos and aquariums in the United States, which attracted 176 million visitors last year.
"At aquariums and zoos, we have an important job to do. Education is No. 1, and conservation is No. 2," he said. Letting people see animals in person at zoos and through his shows not only allows them to experience wildlife they normally wouldn't, but also teaches them important lessons about nature and conservation, Hanna said.
"I always say you have to touch the heart to teach the mind. Instead of standing there and giving the Latin names of all the animals, I try to do it in a fun way," he said.
Hanna recently returned from trips to Rwanda, Kenya, Greece and West Africa, and said he is looking forward to spending some time in Montana, where he enjoys hiking and seeing grizzly bears and cougars.