Famed zookeeper draws attention to local project
To help boost their Rhino Expansion Project, the Potter Park Zoo, 1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave., in Lansing, invited a special friend for support.
America’s best-known zookeeper, Jack Hanna, and some of his animal friends visited the zoo Tuesday evening to chat, bark and growl about animal education and black rhinoceros conservation.
“Every zoo makes a difference,” Hanna said.
The Rhino Expansion Project involves the construction of a $1.1 million facility for critically endangered black rhinos. Potter Park Zoo Director Gerry Brady said construction will begin in fall and zoo officials hope to open the facility next spring.
“When we get done, we are going to bring in two black rhinos from the Black Rhino (Species Survival Program), which is an organization that monitors black rhinos and them being critically endangered,” he said. “So, this is so significant, not just for the zoo, but for all rhinos in captivity.”
The event, which sold out several weeks ago, attracted fans of all ages. The large garage-style room where Hanna presented barely held 500 seats, and they all were filled. Hanna spent time speaking about the current rhinoceros poaching crisis and showed a video on the topic. He also introduced several exotic animals such as a flamingo, a penguin, a cheetah and a bearcat, which joined Hanna on stage while he enlightened guests with animal facts.
“For those of us who work in the field, we are impressed by how dedicated he is to conservation,” Zoo Society Education Curator Daniel Laidler said. “He made a very long day longer because he believes in rhino conservation.”
Laidler said Hanna did not charge the zoo any fees for the appearance, other than the cost of transportation.
Hanna also addressed issues concerning animal rights and stressed the importance of educating people about protecting animals, especially black rhinos. Hanna said there were 60,000 black rhinos worldwide in 1978, buy only 2,100 are left today.
Shortly before the event, Hanna signed books for fans. He has published numerous children books and recently wrote an autobiography called “Jungle Jack: My Wild Life.”
Lansing was just a pit stop in Hanna’s national adventure. He also appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning.