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Statue of Tacoma icon Ivan the gorilla to be unveiled Wednesday

Ivan, Tacoma's beloved gorilla, finds a home at Pt. Defiance Zoo

A life-sized bronze statue of Ivan the gorilla will be unveiled Wednesday outside Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Ivan became a Tacoma icon during his time at the B&I mall on South Tacoma Way and died at Zoo Atlanta in 2012 when he was 50.
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A life-sized bronze statue of Ivan the gorilla will be unveiled Wednesday outside Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Ivan became a Tacoma icon during his time at the B&I mall on South Tacoma Way and died at Zoo Atlanta in 2012 when he was 50.

Today, Tacoma will welcome Ivan the gorilla home.

A yearslong effort to memorialize him with a life-sized statue will comes to fruition Wednesday morning when the 600-pound bronze sculpture is unveiled outside the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

Ivan became a beloved community icon while living at the circus-themed B&I mall on South Tacoma Way. He lived in Tacoma from 1964 until being sent to live at Zoo Atlanta in 1995.

Ivan died in 2012 when he was 50.

More Ivan

Shortly afterward, the Beloved Ivan Project launched to raise $247,354 for the nearly 6-foot-tall sculpture of Ivan holding a magnolia blossom.

Local artist Douglas Granum was commissioned to do the project, which included 3-D printing of more than 100 pieces later welded together into the form of a western lowland gorilla.

“This was not work; it was truly a labor of love,” Granum said.

The Irwin family, which owned and raised Ivan while he was in Tacoma, chose to place the statue at Point Defiance Zoo because of its conservation work and desire for visitors to see and remember Ivan.

Although the sculpture now stands outside the zoo, a series of interpretive panels to teach visitors about Ivan’s legacy and the perils faced by gorillas in the wild are still to come.

Sculpting Ivan

Sculptor Douglas Granum, of Port Orchard, collaborated with Form 3-D Foundry in Portland to produce a larger than life bronze statue of Ivan the Gorilla.

Dean J. Koepfler dkoepfler@thenewstribune.com

“We are pleased that this beautiful and fitting memorial of Ivan now stands in a public spot within Point Defiance Park,” Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners President Erik Hanberg said.

“Its location outside one of the Northwest’s premier zoos, a place dedicated to the care and conservation of endangered species, reminds us all of the need to cherish the animals that inhabit the earth with us.

“We are confident that visitors will come to view this sculpture of Ivan and learn about actions they can take to help gorillas in the wild.”

An estimated 125,000 western lowland gorillas remain in Western equatorial Africa. Cameroon is home to roughly 300 Cross River gorillas.

About 2,000 to 10,000 Grauer’s gorillas and just 800 mountain gorillas live in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Young Ivan in home movies

Larry Johnston shares his family's home movies of Ivan the gorilla from the 1960s. Check out Ivan as a baby. The world-famous gorilla lived with the Johnstons for three years, until he was 60 pounds and proved too big and powerful to remain in the home. He was moved to Tacoma's B&I shopping center, where he lived from 1967 to 1994. Ivan died in August 2012 at Zoo Atlanta.

Dean J. Koepfler dkoepfler@thenewstribune.com

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

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