Immortalizing a Beloved Friend

In 2012 the world lost a beloved gorilla known famously for decades. The gorilla, named Ivan, was 50 when he died, but his memory has been immortalized in a bronze statue at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.

Neither Ivan nor any gorilla ever set foot in the park’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. But the Irwin family, who cared for the animal for many years at its B&I shopping center, decided the statue’s home should be at Point Defiance because of the zoo’s dedication to conservation. As noted in the conservation section of the zoo’s website: “It’s a passion that drives us to protect threatened species and their habitats, from the jungles of Borneo to the wetlands of Western Washington.”

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, several species of gorillas span from endangered to critically endangered, with the eastern gorilla reaching the latter of the spectrum this year. Capturing or killing gorillas is illegal, yet hunting is still the biggest threat to the animal.

The group Friends of Beloved Ivan raised over $220,000, with $165,000 used for the statue that was created by local artist Douglas Granum, who was commissioned for the project. Statue construction involved 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,” says Granum.

“We are pleased that this beautiful and fitting memorial of Ivan now stands in a public spot within Point Defiance Park,” says Erik Hanberg, a member of the MetroParks Tacoma Board of Commissioners. “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.”

The statue of Ivan depicts him gazing inquisitively at a magnolia, capturing his lovable personality. Repeating Hanberg’s sentiments about the statue, Ron Irwin says, “It is our hope that those who come to see the sculpture will be inspired to learn more about Ivan’s story and about gorillas in the wild.”

The 600-pound statue represents a strong, resilient animal. Even more, it represents a beloved friend.


For additional information:
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium