Having spent in excess of 30 years promoting the merits of raw feeding- I was bound to experience some unique and interesting trips while visiting the majority of the zoological parks and aquariums. None, however, will ever compare to the side trip that I took with Jack Hanna. Jack is the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo in Columbus Ohio. We have been personal friends for over 30 years. Jack has developed a style unique enough to become extremely popular among the night show circuit with Dave Letterman, Larry King and Jay Leno. He has developed his own TV animal series and has become a legend in the zoo business. Those that know Jack always see him in compromising situations with his animals on the different shows. They always present comical and unexpected results on the show. That’s what makes him stand out and be different from other guests.
About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Santa Domingo Zoo in the Dominican Republic on a sales trip trying to convert the zoo to our raw meat diets. I asked Jack if he would like to accompany me on this trip. He accepted and off we went.
The zoo had prepared to accept a male and female Rhino to the island. The natives had never seen such a variety and were eager to arrange to make provisions at the zoo for their transport. The Rhinos were coming to the zoo on a breeding loan from Busch Gardens in Florida. In addition to the Rhinos, they we shipping a Giraffe on the same boat. The newspapers had really highlighted the event and the news crew was all waiting for the arrival of the ship from Florida. Jack and I were waiting at the dock when the boat arrived in port. Little did we know what problems had occurred on the ship? 1/2 hour out of the port of Miami- the female Rhino came into heat. They were placed in a horse trailer with the female positioned in front of the male with 4 inch steel bars between them to separate them. I question whether anyone will ever experience the male sex drive of a Rhino that is tantalized with a female in heat. He was so revved up that he would back up all the way and then put his head down and then ram the bars and then swing his head up and proceeded to rip the roof of the trailer to shreds. The only way to slow him down was to tranquilize him. They gave him several shots to calm him down to no avail. Any more and they would have killed him. Between episodes they would spray him down with water because the temperature was in excess of 100 degrees F.
Finally after a long grueling ride the pair made it to the port in Santa Domingo. Jack and I then witnessed a fiasco beyond belief. The trailer that they had arranged to haul the pair to the zoo was marginal and they had 3 flat tires and a broken axle on the 7- mile trek to the zoo. Every 15 minutes they would spray the male down because of the heat and the excess hormones at work. Additional excitement happened when the film crew witnessed getting the Giraffe under the bridges. They had to lasso the neck, pull down his head and pull him under the bridge.
After 4 additional hours of trailer trouble and mechanical breakdowns and hosing down the male Rhino they arrived at the zoo. The film crew was on hand to register the event and watch the animals be released into the new holding pens. When they opened the doors to the trailer- the male Rhino was dead! What a disappointment it was for the zoo personnel. They had to stand guard over the animal all night because the tusk on the male Rhino at that time was worth over $30,000. They had to remove it and send it back to Busch Gardens because it was on breeding loan.
A more eventful trip couldn’t have been put together to have Jack associated with the trip. The filming of this trip would have made the Letterman show a Granny winner for sure. Jack was a panic and a true comedian on the whole trip. More stories can be told in another blog that will tell the other adventures we had on that trip. It is one that I will never be able to duplicate again.