Jungle Jack Hanna visits Caldwell Zoo in Tyler

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email

Jungle Jack Hanna is an expert when it comes to animals, but he's also an expert on zoos.

"I've literally been to almost every zoo in this country," Hanna said. "There are 222 zoos in this country, that took in 142 million people last year. the largest recreation in America is zoo visitation."

So it's pretty high praise when he has this to say about Caldwell Zoo.

"I don't know if the people realize it, that live in this area, but you have a gold mine here, and I hope the people understand it. I've never used that word except for two other zoos, and I've been doing this for almost 40 years."

In that amount of time, Jungle Jack has gained a lot of fans, many of which have grown up watching him. But there were some younger faces, you might even call them "fan cubs" in the audience too.

"She watches 'Bindi the Jungle Girl,' she loves animals, and we saw Jack Hanna on there, she's very interested in him," said Stephanie Harber of Tatum, who came to the zoo with her two daughters.

"We home school our kids, so they don't get a lot of things the school has to offer," said Bryan Muench of Gladewater, a father of six. "So we take field trips so they can see things that they miss."

And one of Jack's biggest fans, zoo director Hayes Caldwell, says this East Texas zoo, may just have given Hanna something to learn from too.

"He said the African exhibit is probably the third best one he's ever seen," Caldwell said. "In fact, he's going to send someone from the Columbus Zoo down here to see it in about a month, so we're pretty proud of that."

The event was only open to zoo members, and you can purchase memberships for your family anytime at the zoo box office. The zoo is also planning to debut a new black bear exhibit in the coming months.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.