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Wildlife expert Jack Hanna stops in Tucson

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 00:33:23-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Wildlife expert Jack Hanna made a stop in Tucson Thursday night for a presentation at the Fox Tucson Theatre.
 
Hanna spoke to a sold-out crowd about some of his recent travels and his "Into The Wild" television program. 
 
"I love Arizona," Hanna said. "I can't do all the speeches I'm asked to do, but I go back now at my age back to where I love to go to."
 
Before his presentation Hanna visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. In 2014 he was in Tucson to release bighorn sheep in the Catalina mountains and visit the elephants at the Reid Park Zoo.
 
"This is one of the few states you can go to today that has incredible wildlife, incredible conservation, incredible Game & Fish guys," Hanna said.
 
Reid Park Zoo Director Jason Jacobs says Hanna has always been his mentor, and helped him get his start as a zoologist. Jacobs says Hanna's influence can be found all over Reid Park.
 
"When you see the camel rides, the carousel, and the interactive programs," Jacobs said. "He's always said I'd rather entertain, and hope people learn then teach and hope people are entertained."
 
At the show Thursday Hanna brought in animals with Conservation Ambassadors, a non-profit based in Pasa Robles, CA.
 
"I try to teach conservation in a very simple way," Hanna said. "A fun way at times yes, this thing tonight will be fun, but they'll walk out of here learning something."
 
Among the animals were a spider monkey named Maya. Hanna says she was found in a dumpster in Los Angeles 10 years ago. Because she wasn't taken care of properly, she has deformed legs. Hanna says it's important for people to meet her because she is an example of the dangers of having wild animals as pets.
 
While Hanna says in the Amazon there are 20,000 species that will disappear before being discovered, he focuses on the positive wildlife work being done.
 
"In Montana, the wolf has come back very well," Hanna said. "The grizzly bears come back really well, the black bears all over the place have come back very well, the mountain lions. You don't hear about this."
 
Hanna grew up in Tennessee and never wanted to be on TV, but gained national attention on "Good Morning America" when twin gorillas were born at the Columbus Zoo. Hanna was the Director, and now serves as the Director Emeritus of the zoo. He was also a regular on the "Late Show With David Letterman." 
 
This spring Hanna's show "Into The Wild" will feature footage shot at his last visit in Tucson.