Gorilla who lived in Tacoma store, Ivan, dies


by LINDSAY CHAMBERLAIN / KING 5 News, Associated Press


Posted on August 21, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 21 at 7:40 PM

An animal that was a vivid part of many people's memories in the Puget Sound area has died.

Ivan, the gorilla who lived in the B & I Circus Store in Tacoma for nearly two decades, died Tuesday following a medical procedure at a zoo in Atlanta.

More than 50-years-old, Ivan's health was failing and keepers elected to run a full diagnostic workup on him.

The gorilla was put under general anesthesia Monday and never woke up, said Dr. Dwight Lawson of Zoo Atlanta. 

"He passed away peacefully," he said. "Ivan was quite old, and over the past few weeks his condition had been declining."

The zoo said Ivan had recently lost weight, lacked an appetite and suffered from a respiratory illness.

Ivan had lived at Zoo Atlanta since March of 1995. He was born in the wild around 1962 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Wildlife traders sold him to the owners of the Lakewood department store in 1964 where he was kept alone in an indoor enclosure with walls painted to resemble the jungle.

The store's star attraction, many people around Puget Sound remember making specific trips to see Ivan, known to sometimes bang his fists against windows as shoppers looked at him.

In 1987, the local animal activists with PAWS of Lynnwood took up Ivan's cause, campaigning to have him released.

In 1991, Ivan was featured in a National Geographic documentary titled, "The Urban Gorilla."

Facing pressure from the community, in 1994 the store donated Ivan to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, which later transferred him to Atlanta. Watch video from Ivan's release by clicking here.

When Ivan arrived in Atlanta, zookeepers said he hadn't seen other gorillas since he was a baby.

Dr. Lawson said Ivan remained attached to humans likely as a result of his background.

"He never took to [other gorillas] quite as well as we'd hoped," he said. "He got along with other gorillas but never bred and maintained a friendship with people."

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