Iliana N. Corfias / Lantern photographer
The Ohio Union’s Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom was swimming with critters and students Thursday.
Jack Hanna and a portion of the Columbus Zoo visited campus Thursday as part of an Ohio Union Activities Board-sponsored event.
Hanna kicked things off with jokes about his upbringing in Tennessee and telling how he came to be a zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo.
The audience, which consisted of around 900 students, seemed captivated by the animals, giving its generally undivided attention to Hanna with sporadic reactions consisting of gasps and awes with each new animal presented onstage.
While most students seemed to attend for entertainment, some students attended for other reasons.
Sara Toskin, a first-year in zoology, said she has wanted to work with animals since high school.
“I’ve always loved animals and Jack Hanna does it so well,” Toskin said. “One day I will be working with him, and to do what he does so well is one of my goals.”
Kaitie Peterson, a third-year in animal sciences, snagged a front row seat at the event.
“I actually got to pet the penguin before the show started and that was awesome,” she said. “I really liked the cheetah too.”
Before introducing the cheetah to the crowd, Hanna made a joke to the audience, encouraging them to stay put.
“If you have to go to the bathroom, you need to hold it until after the cheetah is put away,” he said. “Unless you’re able to go (to the bathroom) at 70 mph.”
The African penguin, also known as the “black footed” or “jack—,” made a bathroom joke of his own, using the stage as his personal restroom.
In addition to the cheetah and penguin, Hanna also introduced 11-week old Siberian tigers to the crowd.
“This audience is only the second or third audience to see these tigers out in public, so it’s a real treat tonight,” Hanna said.
The Siberian tigers were some of the animals to be greeted with a loud, in unison “awe” from the crowd as they came on the stage with two handlers, drinking from baby bottles.
Hanna offered some information about the tigers’ expected growth, including that at 22 months old, they’re expected to weigh more than 600 lbs. The cubs also have computer chips in them to track where they are throughout the world via a data system. Hanna said the tigers are expected to eventually be sent to another zoo in Europe or Australia when they grow a little more.
While most of the featured animals were covered in fur, feathers and needles, another one had scales and slithered.
“Monty Python” was an albino python from Asia that changed the “awes” to “ews” as many students in the audience squirmed in their seats when the snake took the stage.
Hanna noticed the reaction of the crowd and asked the audience how many people like snakes. A small portion of the attendees raised their hands.
Other animals guests included a honey badger, a gray kangaroo, a snow leopard and a Chilean flamingo named Pinky.
Throughout the evening, Hanna showed short videos of himself at animal havens in different parts of the world. One video centered on an organization in South Africa that readied infant-orphaned elephants for release in a national park reserve in South Africa.
The videos, which touched on poachers and the danger of extinction of many of the animals, were taken in a more serious tone than the rest of the night.
Hanna lightened the mood though when he shared a “blooper reel” with the audience that showed animals climbing on him, stinging him and eating his hair.
“These bloopers prove to people the real reason why I don’t have much hair anymore,” Hanna said. “Being a zookeeper meant a lot of pulled out and eaten hair throughout the years.”
Defending the animals thinking of him as a source of food, Hanna said, “They don’t know you’re a human … that is the way of the wild.”
OUAB declined to disclose how much it cost to put on the event or bring Jack Hanna.