The Nose

The Nose: For Ivan’s fan club, this latest monkey business is all too familiar

Stop us if you’ve heard this one already.

A gorilla is held captive at a shopping center. It spends its most productive years without so much as a vacation, 401(k) plan or employee discount.

Most of its life passes behind glass, enduring taunts, stares, window knocks and ape grunts from anonymous shoppers. Eventually it finds sympathy from animal-rights activists who lobby for its freedom.

If you think we’re reciting the true-life adventure of a famous silverback gorilla named Ivan, you would be wrong — or at least only half right.

History often repeats itself, and people in Southeast Asia are apparently destined to make the same short-sighted decisions as people in South Tacoma.

“A monkey at a mall? Gee, what a swell idea! Let’s get one!”

Human see, human do.

The Schnoz sniffed the sour smell of déjà vu this week when we read a story in The Bangkok Post, one of our favorite publications.

It seems a gorilla named Bua Noi (which translates as Little Lotus) has long been imprisoned in a high-rise zoo that fills the top two floors of the Pata department store in Thailand’s capital.

Confined to a cage with steel bars and a concrete floor, she lately has drawn the attention of animal-rights activists.

“I don’t think animals should be locked up in such unnatural habitat,” Sinjira Apaitan, who organized a petition drive, told The Post.

The activists so far have gathered more than 36,000 signatures calling for Bua Noi’s release — enough to persuade the country’s wildlife agency to talk with activists this week about how to improve the animal’s welfare.

The crusaders know she likely can’t survive in the wild, but they’d like to see her in an outdoor zoo with members of her own species.

Amen to that. She deserves a chance to hang out with other gorillas — communicate, groom, fall madly in sweet simian love, have babies, retire, play monkey bunco and grow old.

Free the Little Lotus!: Bua Noi’s story doesn’t exactly mirror the narrative of Ivan, who spent much of his life in a customized man cave at the B&I Shopping Center before being released to live his last years at the Atlanta Zoo.

He was a boy, she’s a girl. (And girls love department stores!)

He was raised in diapers by a local family who loved him until he died two years ago at age 50.

And the campaign to liberate Bua Noi is not quite the international cause celebre that “Free Ivan” was, fueled by exposure from National Geographic, Michael Jackson and thousands of Tacoma schoolchildren.

But Bua Noi is a middle-aged gorilla, like Ivan was. She has languished 27 years in the slammer — the same number that our own “gentle giant” spent in solitary before he was paroled in 1994.

If he wasn’t cremated, Ivan would roll over in his grave.

But what about Croatia?: Mayor Marilyn Strickland is going great guns trying to put Tacoma on the world map, what with her new Commission on International Relations and all that.

Next up: Outer space!

T-Town can boast having a dozen sister cities around the globe, including our favorite: Biot, France. (Followers of the Nose know that we insist on calling it B.O., despite the best efforts of French grammarians to set us straight.)

So imagine our distress to learn that the prime minister of Croatia will visit Seattle this weekend — as well as Gig Harbor for a trolley tour of the city’s rich Croatian fishing roots — with no planned stops in Tacoma.

The folks down at Old Town Tacoma’s Slavonian Hall must be aghast.

Tacoma doesn’t have any formal ties with Croatia, but Strickland assured us she didn’t snub Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic.

“I don’t think I’d turn down an invitation from any prime minister,” she told a TNT scribe after Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Someone could probably make up a country from the South Pacific, she added, and she’d meet with them, too.

That won’t be necessary, ma’am. But since she’s being so obliging, we’d like our cosmopolitan mayor to establish diplomatic relations with the following real towns and cities.

Oh, the places you’ll go!:

• Rottenegg, Austria

• Middelfart, Denmark

• Beer, England

• Bastardstown, Ireland.

• Silly, Belgium

• Moron, Mongolia.

• Spokane, Washington.

• Ganja, Azerbaijan.

For this last one, we know several Tacomans who’d volunteer to lead a joint delegation.