Betty White Secretly Paid to Evacuate Animals From Audubon Aquarium After Hurricane Katrina
As news of her passing sinks in, Betty White is being remembered for more than her decades-long career in television and film. White, who died at the age of 99 on December 31, is also being celebrated for her enduring commitment to animal welfare and conservation, including a previously unknown Hurricane Katrina rescue effort.
Audubon Nature Institute revealed on Friday that the beloved Golden Girls star paid for a private plane to relocate the aquarium's otters and penguins from New Orleans to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"We lost a conservationist, animal advocate, and friend. When the penguins & sea otters were evacuated to @MontereyAq for Hurricane Katrina, Betty White paid for the plane to relocate them," Audubon Nature Institute shared on Twitter. "She did not ask for fanfare; she just wanted to help."
"Audubon did not find out until after the trip that Betty White had paid for a portion of the trip," Audubon spokesperson Annie Matherne told WWL-TV. "Betty was a huge animal advocate and conservationist. She did not want any fanfare surrounding her part in the relocation; she just wanted to help how she could. We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend."
White started working with Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), the nonprofit partner of the Los Angeles Zoo, in 1966 and officially joined GLAZA's Board of Trustees in 1974. She was honored as the City of Los Angeles' "Ambassador to the Animals" for her lifelong work for animal welfare in 2006. She was later named an honorary zookeeper by the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.
In 2017, White received the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for her "commitment to wildlife and efforts to create a sustainable planet," specifically through her charitable work with zoos and animal rescues.
"What a privilege to be honored simply for my passion—for what I love most in the world—animals," White said in a statement at the time.
Thank you for being a friend to all, Betty.