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The Vault: Betty White shares admiration of animals during Louisville Zoo visits

The "Golden Girl" embraced her love for animals and visited the zoo twice for their big openings of their exhibits.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “Thank you for being a friend.”

That’s part of the opening line from the classic TV theme song of the Golden Girls, but it was a shared sentiment everyone had when mentioning actress and icon Betty White.

She’s being called a national treasure, in part, because she left a legacy wherever she went.

In the Ohio Valley, her travels led her to the Louisville Zoo in 1997 for the opening of the Islands Pavilion.

The exhibit featured crocodiles and large lizards, some were glad they were behind the glass.

During her visit, White was seen admiring the sea lions but also shared her affinity for bats. She said the battier, the better.

“Oh, I love the bats! They’re fascinating.”

White was a known animal lover and passionate champion for animal rights and would travel the country’s zoos and advocate for the animals she worried were left behind.

"When you come out here, don't miss the bats. They are so interactive and cuddle looking. They are absolutely adorable!"

Five years later, White returned for the opening of Gorilla Forest at the Zoo. It was impressive to those who called Louisville home.

Credit: WHAS-TV
FILE | Betty White admiring the sea lions while visiting Islands Pavilion at the Louisville Zoo in 1997.

"I actually didn't expect this much, it’s really nice."

She was blown away, saying Louisville’s gorilla exhibit was a new standard she hoped to reach back at her home zoo in California.

"I've got to tell you- there's a lot of envy and all that kind of stuff because we haven't been able to do this in Los Angeles,” White said. “We have a good zoo, and we're working very hard on a new gorilla exhibit, but we can't compare to this."

Her trips to the Louisville Zoo brought the buildup and excitement like that of a blockbuster movie.

But for White, it was always about the animals and making life better for the planet's favorite furry friends.

White passed away Friday and was just 18 days shy of celebrating her 100th birthday.

A planned film for the Hollywood icon will be shown in theaters on Jan. 17, her birthday.

“Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration” will be shown at Regal Cinemas in New Albany, Indiana, Cinemark at Mall St. Matthews, Tinseltown, and Preston Crossing.

For tickets, click here for more information.

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