The Georgia Aquarium has named its new dolphin mascot “Betty” after actress and animal lover Betty White. White has been a supporter of the aquarium, which is the world’s largest, since 2010, when she met and bonded with a beluga whale named Beethoven. White was so transformed by swimming with the whale that she devoted a chapter in her book “If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)” to the experience.
White returned to to Atlanta on Wednesday and spent time at both the zoo and the aquarium as part of her research for an upcoming book about her experiences with animals. While at the aquarium, she once again visited Beethoven and his tank mate, as well as Gracie, an otter White first met in California 14 years ago.
“It was my idea to come this time. I flew myself back and the aquarium was kind enough to let me have another visit with him. My schedule is so busy, you just never know when you might have a chance to interact like that again,” she said. “Places like [the aquarium] are sending such a wonderful message. I always get a little discouraged when people say about zoos and aquariums, ‘They shouldn’t take animals out of their natural environment.’ But what have we done to their natural environment? It doesn’t exist anymore. The people have taken over. But a facility like this, they’re sending a message – appreciate the wildlife.”
For their part, the aquarium is grateful to have a supporter in White. According to Aquarium President David Kimmel, “Betty White truly believes in the dedicated work Georgia Aquarium does on behalf of aquatic animals. Her commitment to supporting awareness for our research and conservation programs is remarkable, and her enthusiasm, understanding and passion for all animals make her an ideal ambassador for the zoological community.”
White, known her her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, is also one of many celebs who have been invited to this year’s Marine Corps Ball.