Jack Hanna brings cheetah to NC for schoolkid program

Avatar BCR | January 27, 2007 2 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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This article is from 2007, but the hypocrisy is in the fact that Jack Hanna should have known better than to take wild animals onto talk shows or out to schools.  We believe that it’s a monkey-see-monkey-do world out there and when people see celebrities, like Jack Hanna, taking cute baby wild cats into TV studios, they want to be like that guy, and will pay to pet exotic cats too.

If not for the demand for cub petting, that has been caused by all of the showing off on stage and in film, there wouldn’t be incidents like the Zanesville Massacre in the first place.  What is even worse is that DC staffers tell us that Jack Hanna has become the mouthpiece for the ZAA which is a collection of second rate roadside zoos, in our opinion, and as such he has been trying to thwart our efforts to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

Jack Hanna brings cheetah to NC for schoolkid program

By Chick Jacobs
Staff writer
Published on Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jack Hanna gets some help from students Skylar Devenport, center, and Jazmin Brown while showing off a python Friday at the Crown Arena. At right is Dan Breeding.

Breanna Voelker wished aloud that she’d get to see a cheetah.

On the other side of a whisper-thin curtain, her wish was curled up, taking a cat nap under an Ohio State stadium blanket.

Kago the cheetah, Monty the python and a host of other critters that normally would be their lunch traveled in relative harmony to Fayetteville on Friday.

Under the watchful eye of the king of their mobile jungle, Jack Hanna, they thrilled more than 2,200 Cape Fear area students at the Crown Arena.

“You know, today you’ve seen more wild animals than 99 percent of the children in Africa will ever see,” Hanna said to the students. “We brought them here today so you could appreciate them and develop an understanding for these wonderful animals.”

About half of the hour-long show consisted of Hanna and his helpers giving the audience an animal’s-eye view of the traveling menagerie. The kids responded, oohing at a great horned owl and giggling when Leza the Gibbon (“That joke is for the teachers,” Hanna quipped) dangled from helper Dan Breeding’s arm.

“I wanted to see a monkey,” said Kiana Robles of Ben Martin Elementary School. “My daddy calls me a monkey sometimes, so that’s my favorite animal.”

Hanna fulfilled her request a few moments later, showing off a squirrel monkey that, somehow, had lost all but a nub of its tail.

“Some of the animals that come to us haven’t had a very happy life,” he said. “We don’t know what happened to his tail.”

The animals waited in traveling cages just off stage. As the trainers prepared each group, Hanna showed video clips of his adventures around the world. He’d often pause to tell students pertinent facts.

Sometimes the visiting animals would ham it up for their audience. A pair of gibbons, decked out in their disposable diapers, nonchalantly groomed their handlers while Hanna talked. Meggie the dingo wagged her tail and sniffed the crotch of anyone who got close to her.

A vulture flapped for cameras, doing what birds are prone to do without warning. A Burmese python flicked its tongue and nonchalantly looked at two students who helped hold it.

Later, a 6-foot-long alligator was a good sport, opening its mouth for inspection.

“My good friend Steve Irwin taught us all a lot about crocodiles and alligators,” said Hanna, keeping a respectful distance. “He’d get right up there and show you things. He knew what he was doing around them. I don’t, so I won’t.”

“He was real good at handling snakes, too. I don’t do that anymore. I’m getting too slow.”

The star was Kago the cheetah, who woke up in time to end the show. Hanna cautioned the audience not to move or clap, that the sleek speedster could outrace a car on Interstate 95 and was attracted to motion.

She strutted on stage, long-legged and sleek, as Hanna talked about the trouble cheetahs have holding onto a meal.

“They can catch it, but lions and hyenas will come take it away. They’re very fast, but not very strong. They’ll starve to death in the wild because other animals chase them off their dinner.”

Hanna spent a half-hour before the show chatting with students and signing autographed pictures for the teachers. “I just don’t have enough for all the kids,” he sighed. “I wish I did.”

But he did pose with anyone who wanted a personal picture with “Jungle Jack,” and kids squealed his name like a rock star as Hanna strolled around the arena.

He responded with a wave, a hug and a challenge — respect nature, but don’t fear it.

“Every creature, be it a black widow spider or a shark or a snake — the good Lord put all of them here for a purpose,” he said.

Some kids weren’t entirely happy. Several hoped to see a lion or tiger, and Decote Monroe of J.S. Seabrook Elementary wondered aloud where the elephants and bears were.

For most of the kids, though, it was an opportunity to escape the classroom — at least for a while.

“What they don’t know,” said Glendale Acres Elementary teacher Amanda Young, “is that we’ll have some classroom work based on this.”

Staff writer Chick Jacobs can be reached at jacobsc@fayobserver.com or 486-3515.


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