Jack Hanna, the guy in cargo pants who's always getting bitten by monkeys on Good Morning America, is leading the effort to collect the escaped wild animals in Zanesville, Ohio. So far so good--the local sheriff reports that the vast majority of the animals have been accounted for and only a mountain lion, a bear and a monkey remain at large. As it were, Hanna jumpstarted his career as America's favorite television animal wrangler during his two decades serving as director of the nearby Columbus Zoo and over the years has helped deal with many complaints about the Muskingum County Animal Farm from where the exotic beasts escaped on Tuesday night. Because of his experience and familiarity with the media spotlight, Hanna has been quoted widely in coverage of the Zanesville fiasco, and his words of wisdom shed some light on how authorities managed to pull off the rescue effort.
Keeping people safe is the top priority when a large group of angry wild animals is released into a small Ohio town, Hanna says:
We're trying our best to make sure no one is hurt doing this. The animals, the question is, why didn't they tranquilize last night? You can't tranquilize at night. It upsets them. Its like if you got popped with a shot. They settle in, hunker down, go to sleep. We can't find them in the dark. What had to be done had to be done.
Things will get tricky when the animals get hungry, Hanna warns:
They're out of their confinement. It's new to them. Some of them might be exploring around. The rain is helping us and against us. The animals probably are hunkered down under trees somewhere, which is hard to find. Hoping they're not moving far with the rain going on. They were fed yesterday. So, hopefully, that's not a problem.
Escaped exotic animals are just as scared of people as vice versa, Hanna explains:
If you see one of these animals, you do not run. You yell and scream. Ninety percent of the time, it will run. You cannot run from it. It doesn't see you as a human. It sees you as something fleeing, or something to play with … take it down. That's one thing you don't do is run. Call the sheriff.
The exotic animal trade is a larger problem that needs to be addressed. Earlier this year, ABC reported that the business "has been booming in recent years" and though exact statistics aren't known, officials "estimate sales generated from smuggling exotic animals or animal parts are in the billions, just behind illegal drug and firearm sales." Hanna makes the drug dealer comparison concisely:
The main thing is we have a couple animal auctions in the state of Ohio that have to be shut down. It's like a drug dealer. You finally get the drugs and, you know, then the man gets the animals. So where's the source of these animals coming from? That has to be stopped and if the governor wants me involved, we will stop these animal auctions and stop it immediately. It has to be done. This is an example here. What happened here should not happen again.