I take issue with Diana Hellinger’s Jan. 17 letter characterizing the National Zoo as “elitist” [“What’s on display at the National Zoo? Elitism.”]. I live on a pension, but I support a few charities, including the National Zoo. My contributions as a member of Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) help create a more pleasant habitat for the animals as well as keep the zoo free so that Ms. Hellinger can take her regular walks at no charge. Giving FONZ members a sneak peek at the baby panda a few days before opening the doors to the rest of the public is a very small perk of membership, and it is petty to characterize it as elitism. As of today, anyone can view Bao Bao.

If more people supported the zoo, it might have the funds to maintain a larger variety of animals.

Carol Ann Linder, Arlington

I completely agree with Diana Hellinger. I recently visited the National Zoo with a friend from Singapore, where there is a famous outdoor zoo. At the end of the walk and tour, my friend said she thought the National Zoo is good but lacks animals. Where are the giraffes, important residents in many zoos? Kids love them, perhaps even more than pandas. Pandas are cute, but at what cost? The American Trail exhibit was a massive construction project, but where are the animals there? Is it time to charge a small entrance fee so that the zoo can be more fun?

J.M. Ward, Montgomery Village