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.
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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.
“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.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653