The famed conservationist and former zookeeper's children announced the diagnosis.

By Tyler Aquilina
April 07, 2021 at 04:29 PM EDT
Jack Hanna
Jack Hanna is known for his frequent TV appearances with exotic animals.
| Credit: Rich Polk/Getty Images

Famed conservationist and former zookeeper Jack Hanna has been diagnosed with dementia, believed to be Alzheimer's disease, and is stepping back from public life, his family announced Wednesday.

"His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated," Hanna's children Kathaleen, Suzanne, and Julie wrote in a statement posted to social media. "Sadly, Dad is no longer able to participate in public life as he used to, where people all over the world watched, learned and laughed alongside him."

"While Dad's health has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through. And yes — he still wears his khakis at home," they added. "To keep everyone safe in light of COVID-19 restrictions, we are asking for privacy, which is ironic given Dad's love of interacting with people. We are grateful that the many hearts he's touched over the years are with him during this journey, which gives us strength."

Hanna was the director of Ohio's Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from 1978 to 1992, and stayed on as a spokesperson for the zoo for many years, officially retiring at the end of 2020. He is also known for his frequent TV appearances with exotic animals, usually on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and Good Morning America.

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