A Love for Elephants Creates a Lasting Legacy

Ken and Catherine Gilbert with an elephant
Elephant wellness and conservation are at the heart of Ken and Catherine’s care for the species.

Catherine’s love for elephants came early, as she inherited a collection of elephant figurines from her grandmother. Inspired by the TV show “Echo of the Elephants,” she wanted to learn more about the real thing.

The Indianapolis Zoo had an “Elephant Awareness Week” over Labor Day weekend 1996. When we first saw the elephants, we were surprised to see them doing a greeting ritual—just like in “Echo.” Seeing this wild behavior in the Zoo showed us that they were well cared for. Then, we were permitted to go to the railing separating the elephants from the people and actually touch an elephant. We returned the next year, and the year after that, and have never stopped coming.

We got to know the elephant staff and were invited to volunteer behind the scenes. Soon, baby elephants were on the way, and a new, larger elephant facility was needed. We were already donors in a small way, and this encouraged us to make a larger gift for the new barn. We then joined the Nussbaum Society by making a regular pledge. It has been a joy to support the Zoo because of the excellence we have seen at every level throughout the years.

Most Americans cannot afford to visit elephants in a range country in Africa or Asia. Humans need that personal touch—to feel the awe of being face-to-face with animals—safely. Today the Indianapolis Zoo provides that opportunity through Tembo Camp.

COVID reminded us of our mortality. We decided to leave a legacy at the Indianapolis Zoo by arranging for a bequest in our wills. Conservation is important to us. So we partnered with the Zoo to leave a legacy of love for animals through our donations and bequest so that someday someone else’s child can fall in love with elephants as we did.

—Ken and Catherine Gilbert


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