Reviewed by Dustin Pangonis
Collegian Staff Writer
Snakes and owls sat next to the popcorn stands. The sound of rustling leaves and monkey voices drifted from the arena into the lobby. The Bryce Jordan Center was transformed into a jungle before the members of the audience even reached their seats.
On Friday night, ‘Jungle’ Jack Hanna delighted the crowd from the BJC’s side stage, which has a capacity of 2,200. For most of the show, Hanna wove entertainment with information about problems facing animals and conservation.
Though the side stage set-up means the audience is closer, there was a large video display behind Hanna for close-ups of the animals, which led to some animal interaction. A serval cat turned toward the display, giving the impression he was looking at his mirror image.
“He sees himself up on the screen. That’s a big serval cat!” Hanna said.
Later on, a dingo went up to a cameraman and began licking the lens.
“Uh-oh! He has rabies! Just kidding,” Hanna said to the cameraman. “Did you have a hamburger for dinner? What’s that? You’re a vegetarian?”
Hanna was quick with jokes all night. While showing off a blue and gold macaw parrot, Hanna explained the bird’s ability to mimic the human voice and mentioned one in Texas that knows more than 300 words in four languages.
Hanna said although his bird was capable of speaking, he could not show him off in the interest of keeping it a family show.
“This bird has four words, and they’re all bad,” he said.
The live animals were interspersed with video footage of Hanna, both in old shows and sneak footage from an upcoming program on mountain gorillas in Rwanda, where Hanna also works with an orphanage. The clips of the video, which Hanna said would be aired in about six months, showed Hanna observing the gorillas and included rare footage of a gorilla constructing its nest for the night.
“It didn’t matter that I’d seen the gorillas before,” he said. “I was more excited to see them this time because I had my family with me.”
Another clip from Bearly Asleep showed Hanna and his team finding a black bear den with a newborn black bear, weighing in at only 3 pounds, 8 ounces.
In a powerful segment of the show, Hanna showed video from his visit with Anna Merz, a conservationist who set up a 60,000-acre wildlife preserve for the black rhino in Africa. The rhinos are prized for their horns, a symbol of power in some Middle Eastern cultures.
In the video, Hanna visited a baby rhino, Samia. Hanna revisited years later when the rhino had grown up.
“She sure has grown since I saw her. She’s only gained about 3,000 pounds,” Hanna said in the video.
Unfortunately, as Hanna said, “this story doesn’t have a happy ending.” Most rhinos aren’t as lucky as Samia and are frequently poached. A few weeks after making the video, despite the high security measures of the wildlife preserve, she was killed by poachers.
Hanna said exotic animals are the second biggest smuggling industry in the United States, behind drugs.
Sprinkled throughout the show there were also references to the recent death of Steve Irwin, fellow animal expert. Hanna called Irwin “the greatest communicator in the history of the business.” Hanna also responded to criticisms of Irwin by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.)
“That’s really the bottom of the barrel — they didn’t need to do that. [Steve] did so much for conservation,” Hanna said. “All you kids, don’t worry. Steve’s up there starting a zoo.”