After the keynote, Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, received the AZA R Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence. For those of you who don’t know him, Hanna is a regular guest on morning news shows, late night talk shows, and pretty much anyone with a TV show and a desk in-between. He typically brings an assortment of animal ambassadors with him. He also stars in his own TV show, Into the Wild.
For a guy who sometimes comes off as hoaky (to me) on TV, Hanna in person was sincere and humble. Apparently his college president called him into his office as a senior and tried to talk him out of going into zookeeping, because among other things, “zoos smell.” Amusing. Interestingly, literally while I was typing this, a security guard approached me and asked me about the conference. He had heard Jack Hanna was here and was very excited. After I explained it to him, he listed the numerous wildlife shows he has watched over the years, how he just learned about the “walking stick” bug and how a recent show on polar bears prompted him to donate money for their conservation. I’m wondering if the AZA planted this guy and sent him my way because I’m wearing a press badge. Kidding. But it would have been a really smart move if they did.