Ivan, pushing 50, took a long time to climb into bed at night, and a longer time to get started in the morning.
His knees were stiff, his eyesight was failing, his teeth were falling out and his digestion hadn’t been so great.
Still, life was good for this senior citizen at Zoo Atlanta.
“Ivan is my favorite gorilla,” said Dr. Hayley Murphy, director of veterinary services at Zoo Atlanta, speaking before Ivan died. “He’s a quirky guy,” said Murphy, who kept a large framed photo of Ivan on her wall.
When Ivan arrived in Atlanta, he followed in the footsteps of the zoo’s most famous resident, Willie B., who, like Ivan, had been in solitary all his adult life. Willie B. made the transition from loner to successful silverback, mating with several females and siring a soccer-team-sized tribe of offspring, before passing away in 2000.
Ivan was another story. He enjoyed moving to his outdoor habitat (though he hated getting his feet wet) and successfully integrated into different social groups, but he never hit it off with the ladies.
“Unfortunately, I think he’d been (in solitary) too long before we moved him,” said David Towne, retired director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
“He never really accepted female gorillas,” Towne said. “The first couple they put him with, they tended to pick on him and beat him up, because he didn’t know how to deal with them.”
Until last October Ivan was living happily with a younger female, Kinyani, though Lori Perkins, vice president of collections, said the two were more like roommates than a couple.
“They were living parallel lives,” she said.
After Kinyani moved out, Ivan lived alone, though he could see other social groups around him. He shuffled out of the gorilla building in the mornings, placing burlap sacks down where he walked, to keep his feet dry. (“It’s a Sir Walter Raleigh sort of thing,” Perkins said.)
Then he’d sit in the sun, and enjoy a lunch of prunes, celery, cabbage, peppers, and gorilla chow – and maybe the occasional dose of Metamucil – before spreading a bale or two of hay around to make himself an open air sleeping couch for an afternoon nap.
He was having “peaceful, enjoyable twilight years,” Perkins said.