The San Diego Zoo, located in sunny southern California, is a world famous tourist destination and popular place to see animals and celebrities. Betty White, who lives in California, is a famous actress with a multitude of fans and is a popular animal activist and celebrity. The two have a lot in common. In fact, the zoo and White are about the same age, love animals and engage in protecting wildlife. A run of nearly a century for both the San Diego Zoo and White have proven fruitful, as they have also formed a lasting bond.
What is now called simply the San Diego Zoo, the park got its start in the late 1800’s with a large tract of land being set aside for the development of a city park. Little by little, strides were made to improve the landscape as citizens invested time and energy to plant trees and gardens. By the early 1900’s, the area known as Balboa Park in San Diego was starting to take shape. The ambition and drive behind those with insight plowed ahead and an animal park was envisioned after the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 left animals in the lurch.
The abandoned, wild and exotic creatures from the exposition were given a new home. The masterminds behind saving the animals and providing a new place for them to live, soon established what is known today as the San Diego Zoo. The zoo park officially opened in August of 1921, and by the summer of 1922 the zoo had created wireless enclosures for their growing population of wildlife.
Along the way, a little girl was born in January of 1922 and she soon became mesmerized with all kinds of animals. Miss Betty White had a strong personality and a real connection to the furry friends of the earth. She candidly admits loving animals from the time she was born and has been an active advocate on their behalf. The star of sitcoms such as the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, White has remained steadfast to her cause.
Along the side her late husband Allen Ludden, the host of the game show Password, White invested her free time in causes that aided the well-being of animals. In 1971, White became a trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation, which helps advance the veterinary science of ailing creatures. White even established The Betty White Rapid Response Fund that aids in emergency relief to animals with a health crisis, issues or injuries. She also has been a long time co-chair involved with the efforts of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.
White naturally purrs when she sees an animal and does what ever she can do to help the cause of protecting endangered species. She has had more kisses from kangaroos and chimps in the last few decades than she might care to mention. At almost age 92, White is almost as old as the San Diego Zoo and has been duly recognized for her efforts.
While in between projects with National Geographic and her crazy series Off Their Rockers, White’s first love always comes back to the animals. She has kept the spunk alive through her outreach, and keeps things going. Despite her age, even old as a zoo, White’s love for animals prevails. The San Diego Zoo recently bestowed their Global’s Conservation Medal to Miss White, as her efforts seem to be unending.
The San Diego Zoo has recognized a good citizen in the cause of animals with Betty White. Even after completing and releasing her book Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo, White does not deny her involvement with animals. She may shyly admit to being an Honorary Forest Ranger, another feather in her cap, but the humble actress is both quick to acknowledge her efforts in the animal kingdom.
Citing animals for companionship and not for show, White is a model for animal activism and awareness, someone the San Diego Zoo is happy to call a friend. Old age is good, as long strides in the years that have turned the pages account for advancement in better captive environments, the Zoos and the Miss Whites of the world seem to be everlasting.
By: Roanne H. FitzGibbon
San Diego Zoo