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Hanna brings his guest stars -- the animals

March 29, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Jack Hanna's "Into The Wild"

HAGERSTOWN -- Did you know ...

Some species of penguins live in warm climates?

A cheetah, unlike other cats, has claws that don't retract?

An armadillo can smell and hear a worm that's a foot underground?

Interesting tidbits, perhaps, but what made Jack Hanna's show on Sunday at The Maryland Theatre wildly entertaining was his guest stars: the animals themselves.

"Awwww," the crowd said in unison as each animal was brought onstage: the red-tailed hawk that can fly 140 to 150 mph; the hyena whose jaws can take apart zebra bones in one bite; the thick python longer than a table. Hanna said the snake is called "Monty Python" and "Julius Squeezer."

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Hanna's combination of animal knowledge and dry wit entertained Sunday's crowd, which nearly filled the 1,400-seat theater. An estimated 1,100 tickets were sold.

"I try to teach conservation through education," he told the audience.

Hanna, who has been affiliated with the Columbus Zoo in Ohio for more than three decades, is well-known for his appearances on TV talk shows.

After appearing on "Good Morning America" in 1983, Hanna became a regular guest on "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night with David Letterman," plus several others.

He has an Emmy-winning children's series called "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild."

"It was exciting to see him," said Melissa Corwell of Clear Spring, celebrating her 41st birthday. "I've been watching him for years."

A large percentage of Sunday's crowd was young and exuberant, cheering and squealing at the exotic animals before them.

Corwell's daughter, Rachel, who will turn 8 on Saturday, said she liked the cheetah best.

"Most of the animals were cute," Rachel said.

Jamie Siebert, 9, of Hagerstown, was partial to the cheetah and the hyena.

Her father, David, said Jamie loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian. She has a 6-year-old German shepherd named Molly.

Before and after the show, Hanna sat in the theater's lobby and signed autographs, despite being bothered by a stiff neck.

Lynn and Donna Carbaugh of Clear Spring waited with their 5-year-old son, Reagan, as the couple's four daughters -- Sharayah, 16; Valerie, 15; Melanie, 12; and Kimberly, 10 -- waited in line for a chance to meet Hanna.

Reagan said he enjoyed the massive python but wouldn't have gone onstage to pet it, as some children were called up to do.

Lynn Carbaugh said he's a dairy farmer, so animals aren't new for his family. But toucans, porcupines and a bearcat, part of Hanna's cavalcade, are foreign to the farm.

Animals in the show came from the Maryland Zoo and the Columbus Zoo.

Maryland supplied Candy the African crowned crane, who flew from the back of the theater, over hundreds of spectators, to a waiting handler on stage.

Hanna recalled how a similar trick failed when he was on Letterman's show. The bird perched somewhere out of reach. Another guest, Aretha Franklin, didn't like birds and refused to come out and sing, Hanna said.

Through video clips mixed into Sunday's event, Hanna showed his far-reaching interest, and advocacy for animals and humanity.

He talked about the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda, where he keeps a home. There, he got an exciting up-close look at the habits of adult and young silverback gorillas.

In another clip, Hanna visited a rhinoceros preserve in Kenya set up by a woman trying to protect the animals from being killed for their horns.

The woman became close to one rhino, shown in separate segments as a calf and an adult. Shortly after the second segment was filmed, poachers killed the rhino, Hanna said.

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