Betty White draws a wild crowd at the National Zoo

Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Betty White describes herself as a “zoo nut.”

So it’s fitting during her trip to D.C., she made a stop at the National Zoo for a behind-the-scenes tour and to meet with fans.

“Wherever I travel, I try to steal time to check out whatever zoo is within reach,” she writes, in her latest book “Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo.”

White started her morning at the Giant Panda House, where she fed 14-year-old Mei Xiang a pear. Next she visited the Bird House where she hugged a kiwi and learned more about the species. White then met the Western lowland gorillas, including three-year-old Kibibi.

The National Zoo blogged, “She held a tiny lemur leaf frog, admired some Japanese giant salamanders and visited with the elephants … She was even introduced to ‘Rose,’ the zoo’s Cuban crocodile, named after her “Golden Girls” character, Rose Nylund.”

After noon, White autographed her new book for fans, some who were lined up for hours to see the famous comedienne.

Carol Loveless traveled from Wilmington, Del., to see White. She says waking up to make the 6 a.m. train was worth it, especially because it meant she could visit her favorite exhibit, the pandas.

Loveless gave White a gift while she was having her book signed. She handed the actress a small box containing a coin designed by her panda-loving friends, featuring the image of the National Zoo’s youngest panda, 7-year-old Tai Shan.

Rachel Wyman, from Falls Church, says coming to the zoo to see White makes for a great combination.

“I’ve been coming to see the pandas since Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing so I go for the ‘furries’ and also adore Betty White,” she says.

Sitting under a covered observation spot in the “Zoo in Your Backyard” exhibit, White personally met with members of the zoo staff and fans.

White says she found her love of animals after spending hours with her parents at the zoo.

“It was from them I learned that a visit to the zoo was like traveling to a whole new country, inhabited by a variety of wondrous creatures I could never see anywhere else in quite the same way,” White writes.

“They taught me not to rush from one exhibit to the next but to spend time watching one group until I began to really see the animals and observe their interactions.”

The actress is known for her passionate advocacy for animals, and is a trustee of the Los Angeles Zoo.

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