ST. CLAIRSVILLE - "Don't pet the porcupine."
Valuable advice to be sure from Jack Hanna, perhaps the planet's most notable animal expert who made a return visit to Belmont County Monday evening.
A long-time supporter of the Captina Creek Watershed which makes up more than 200 square miles and is part of the Ohio River drainage basin, Hanna delighted dozens of elementary-aged children and their parents during a special presentation inside Ohio University's Health & Physical Education complex.
T-L Photo/RICH GIBSON
IT’S A real zoo out there! World-renown animal expert and Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo Jack Hanna is surrounded by area youngsters who witnessed a educational presentation Monday evening at Ohio University-Eastern’s campus. Hanna was appearing in conjunction with the Captina Creek Watershed.
Hanna, more popularly known as "Jungle Jack" for his years of service both domestically and abroad in the zoological society, was joined at Monday's event by a number of special "guests," including a Siberian Lynx, South African penguin; Australian eight-month-old baby kangaroo; South American lesser anteater, and a tropical flamingo.
Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede introduced a number of special guests, including Division of Soil & Water Resources Chief Karl Gebhardt and Captina Conservancy Vice President Jerry Whitmer.
"The Captina Creek Watershed is one of our state's most viable resources and recognized as one of Ohio's cleanest streams in terms of water and habitat quality," Hanna disclosed
"It's so important we continue our tireless work to help preserve the land management and endangered species which inhabit and make up this historic watershed area so important to the residents of Belmont and Monroe counties."
Hanna was making his first public appearance Monday since undergoing double knee replacement surgery less than two weeks ago. "You'll have to excuse my limp," he informed the audience.
With the aid of co-workers from the Columbus Zoo where he is now its Director Emeritus, Hanna introduced each animal with specific information regarding its origins.
"This 14-week-old Siberian Lynx is now regarded extinct in the wilds," Hanna described.
"You'll only find this particular species in selected zoos around the globe."
After displaying a American-bred bearcat, "which actually has the smell of popcorn," Hanna noted, a striking Cheetah was ushered onto the stage. Hanna described the young African cat as possessing the fastest land speed of any living animal, able to sprint up to an amazing 70-75 miles per hour in short bursts.
All the animals displayed Monday are current residents of the Columbus Zoo where Hanna served as director between 1978-93. One of the state's most popular tourist stops is located a few miles northwest of Ohio's capitol city, and is regarded as one of the country's top 10 zoos.
Hanna remains a world ambassador and is dedicated to the preservation of zoological facilities around the globe. His local visit Monday was made possible by several area businesses and the Belmont Soil & Water Conservation District.
Gibson may be reached at email@example.com