The former owner of Ivan the gorilla, who lived in a Tacoma market for nearly 30 years, has received approval from parks officials to put a statue honoring the well-known animal outside the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.
Tacoma Metro Parks Board members approved the resolution last week, but ensured any sculpture would be paid for privately.
Ivan was brought to Tacoma from Africa in 1964 by the Irwin family. The Irwin’s formally owned the B&I Store, and Ivan was on display inside until 1995.
“He meant a lot to the family,” said Ron Irwin, Ivan’s former owner. “We did everything we could for him.”
A combination of animal rights complaints and courtroom battles forced Irwin to sell the market and transfer Ivan to the Atlanta Zoo. Ivan died there in August at the age of 50.
Now, Irwin has started a fund to help pay for a life-sized statue of Ivan that would be placed outside the main Point Defiance Zoo gate, so the public could see it for free.
“They’ll know this is a place they can come and learn the true story of Ivan,” said zoo director Gary Geddes.
The Irwins’ have set a goal of $200,000 to pay for the sculpture and an interactive learning area. Details of the fund are still being worked out. Parks officials gave the family five years to install the memorial.