Betty White is not into "animal activism." The actress, best known for her work on "Golden Girls" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," is not the type to march with a sign in protest of mistreatment at zoos.
She'd rather join forces with zoos to find a solution from within.
A lifelong animal lover, White is a self-proclaimed "zoophile," appreciating the "good zoos" for what they have to offer both people and the environment, she explains in her new book, "Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo."
White acknowledges that not everyone is a fan of zoos. Organizations such as PETA have spoken out against them, writing that "cages and cramped enclosures at zoos deprive animals of the opportunity to satisfy their most basic needs ... In general, zoos and wildlife parks preclude or severely restrict natural behavior."
White feels the problems are fixable, though, and she says she has witnessed change firsthand. She recalled to The Huffington Post visiting what would become the Los Angeles Zoo at Griffith Park. "I was really kind of appalled that a city like Los Angeles had such a poor zoo ... I've never been a big demonstrator from the outside criticizing. I'd much rather get inside and help. So I started to work with the zoo and got hooked, and they haven't been able to get rid of me since."
When asked how others can work to improve zoos, White suggested, "Write an article and put it in your local newspaper." Then her voice strengthened as she declared with conviction, "Rather than just demonstrate and march along and kind of irritate everyone, try to pull people together and say, 'Look, we have this potential, let's try to improve it.' Sometimes going for the positive to defeat the negative carries a lot more weight than just celebrating the negative."
White's convictions are solidified by her belief that zoos play an important role in protecting threatened animals.
In October, the last Javan rhino in Vietnam was reportedly killed for its horn. The Associated Press wrote at the time that according to WWF, the rhino's population had been dwindling due to land conversion, a rising human population, and lack of effective management.
"Once we lose the last rhino in Vietnam, it ain't coming back," White stated matter-of-factly. "Once they're gone, you can't restore that population." There are now only 40 to 60 Javan rhinos in Indonesia, the last known rhinos that remain of the species.
While poaching continues to pose a threat, White says animals are also losing their habitats "because we're moving into their territory and taking their land away."
One reason people are encroaching on animal habitats is due to the growing human population, which recently hit 7 billion. White said, "This planet doesn't get any bigger, but the population gets bigger, which gives us a real problem."
The Center for Biological Diversity's Kieran Suckling blogged for HuffPost, "Species around the globe are being driven toward extinction at more than 100 times the natural rate as the human footprint expands. Our growing numbers gobble up pristine wildlife habitat, suck waters dry, pollute the air, poison with pesticides and alter the climate in a way that makes life -- especially for plants and animals already on the brink -- more difficult than ever."
For White, zoos are part of the answer, because without them, species would be lost. She explained, with a hint of frustration, that many people "get very irate, say, 'Animals should be in their natural habitat, they shouldn't be in captivity.' Well, in the meantime, we've taken much of that natural habitat away. It doesn't exist anymore."
View photos of Betty White with some of her favorite animals in the slideshow below. All photos and captions courtesy of "Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo."
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