Of Mice and Elephants
Fred and Beth Cate Give Money—and Get Their Hands Dirty

Fred and Beth's dear friend Tombi
Photo Credit: Fred Cate

If you ask Fred and Beth Cate to tell you about the Indianapolis Zoo, one of the first things they will discuss is the Zoo’s conservation work. In fact, they are fond of describing the Zoo as “a conservation organization that just happens to run a zoo.” The Cates believe so strongly in the Zoo’s mission to conserve wild things in wild places that they created the Tombi Animal and Keeper Enrichment Fund in 2012. They say, “This fund will advance the Zoo’s mission to conserve wild animals and places by enhancing the well-being of both the animals and the keepers. The animals—including our beloved elephant Tombi (the world’s most beautiful and talented elephant)—serve as the Zoo’s public ambassadors for species and ecosystems, and the keepers’ expertise and dedication directly symbolize our human commitment to conservation.”

Of course Fred and Beth do not just put their money to work; they also aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Beth is on the Zoo’s board of directors and has been a volunteer here for more than a dozen years. She spends her Sundays scrubbing elephant toes and backsides. Fred puts his photography talent to good use as he captures the personalities of the animals here. One of his favorite subjects is Mi-kal, an astonishingly cute Alaskan brown bear. Fred not only captures the personalities of the official Zoo residents but also has a love for the mice, squirrels, ducks, and chipmunks that make the Zoo grounds their home. He is quite fond of telling a story of a brave little mouse who once stole his soft pretzel while he was busy photographing the lions. Needless to say, Fred let the little mouse have the morsel. It is that compassion for all animals, big and small, that led Fred and Beth to do what they do for the Zoo. They do it for the love of the animals—all of them, from mice to elephants.


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