Jungle Jack swings to the rescue
Hanna aids Albion animal park
TV host rallies to help stave off insurance crisis at area sanctuary
By Kelly Soderlund
The Journal Gazette
Clint Keller/The Journal Gazette
Robin Durnbaugh visits with “Dingbat,” an Australian dingo, who is being held by Jack Hanna at the Scottish Rite Center on Sunday.
Albion’s Black Pine Animal Park got some help Sunday for its 86 animals that might soon be without homes from one of the most well-known zoologists in the country: “Jungle” Jack Hanna.
Hanna put on a show Sunday afternoon at the Scottish Rite Center in downtown Fort Wayne, showcasing 14 animals from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo, where Hanna is a director emeritus. The 2,000 people in attendance were able to see a cheetah, albino python snake, a baby kangaroo, a bearcat and a baby alligator among other animals.
Hanna was the host of “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” and has a new TV show this fall called “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.” He’s appeared numerous times on talk shows, including “The Late Show with David Letterman,” where he is scheduled as a guest Wednesday.
While the audience seemed to have a good time oohing and aahhing over Hanna’s exotic animals, the show took on a serious tone at first when patrons were reminded of the trouble Black Pine Animal Park is in. Brad Bonar, co-founder of the park, whose home sits in front of the complex, told board members last month that the insurance company he has used for 20 years recently decided that after Oct. 1 it will no longer insure the property because of the risk the park’s exotic animals pose. The 12.5-acre park could still be insured if Bonar’s house wasn’t used as a residence. Proceeds from the show’s $10 admission and the 100 $125 VIP tickets for a pre-reception and revenue from a silent auction went to help Black Pine.
Negotiations between park officials and Bonar failed last week when two more offers to buy the property were rejected. Bonar originally offered to sell the land for $411,000 and was rejected by park officials. Lori Gagen, director of development for Black Pine Animal Park, would not disclose the amounts of the counteroffers.
So park officials are now looking at four or five 20-acre sites around Albion to move to but are worried that their eviction date of Oct. 1 is coming too soon.
“The key thing that’s happening right now is we have six months to do it,” Gagen said. “We thought we had an infinite amount of time.”
Officials are also open to looking at other properties, especially those that could be donated or negotiated at a low cost, Gagen said. Park officials may have to find homes for the 86 animals while it tries to find and build another space, Gagen said. But finding homes for such exotic animals as tigers, lions and leopards, which are all housed at the park, is not an easy feat.
The park appears on the Albion Town Council agenda for its Tuesday meeting, and park officials will ask council members to negotiate buying or leasing property at Hidden Diamonds Park. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the town’s police training room, 124 S. Orange St., in Albion.
Hanna spoke about the importance of places such as Black Pine Animal Park, which gives rescued and retired animals a safe haven, before his show Sunday. Many people think purchasing a wild animal would be neat but don’t think of the cost of maintaining the animal, Hanna said.
“It’s not a matter of buying an animal. You can buy an African lion for $500 but how do you house that animal in the habitat? It could cost $1 million, and that’s where the people don’t have that kind of money,” Hanna said.
So when the people realize they can’t afford to keep a wild animal in their home, they call places such as Black Pine – which serves as a sanctuary and retirement home for animals – in hopes they can take the animal in, Hanna said. Otherwise, it’s euthanized.
Handlers from the Columbus Zoo brought a number of animals out to the stage Sunday, and Hanna revealed interesting facts about each. Audience members feasted their eyes on a Palm Civet, which Hanna said was responsible for carrying the SARS virus in Asia several years ago.
The audience was also treated to a big-eared rabbit named “Jack,” which Hanna says he takes everywhere. The 19-pound rabbit won the Wisconsin state fair and was given to him by a girl in the state. Hanna shared a story of when he was a boy living on a farm in Knoxville, Tenn., when his father, who grew up in Arkansas, told him they used to eat rabbits.
Hanna went to the barn and released the more than 200 rabbits they had in fear they would become dinner.
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an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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