This is Ivan

Learning from his Legacy

Ivan Lee Johnston™ was a Silverback Western Lowland gorilla from the Democratic Republic of Congo on the African continent.  He was brought to our world as a young infant and for the first few years of his life he was raised by a human family in Tacoma, WA.  Once he had grown too large to be cared for in a human household, his new home had then become the B&I Circus Store.

Through the 1960’s to the 1990’s Ivan had been a friend to many in his Tacoma community, his personality and sense of humor will always be fondly remembered by those who knew him.  Although he had garnered many friendships during his time at the B&I, he had lived a solitary life for a species that thrives on being part of a community.  In the mid 1990’s his caretakers had to make the difficult decision to move Ivan to Zoo Atlanta, the foremost center in the United States with the experience in the care of Western Lowland gorillas.  It was here that Ivan had lived the rest of his iconic life and had passed away at the age of fifty on August 20th of 2012.

Ivan’s legend offers many teachings about how our kind should offer more respect to the fellow species that call our world home.  Their natural habitats are constantly threatened by human actions and more must be done to prevent his species from extinction.  Ivan had an extraordinary life that was filled with many unconventional experiences for a gorilla, he has become an icon in literature, art and will now always be remembered by his monument that was dedicated to him on the steps to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, WA.

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Ivan’s ambassadorial legacy to bring awareness to the preservation of the natural habitats for gorillas in the wild will continue.  The Beloved Ivan campaign has chosen to partner with the Dian Fossey Foundation & the Wildlife Conservation Society to ensure that his species endures.

Ivan’s Story

Who was Ivan and how did he come to live such an unorthodox life? This is his story. Today Ivan’s legacy continues to inspire empathy for the lives of gorillas.

The Project

Inspired by the affection the Tacoma community had felt for Ivan the Gorilla® whom had once resided at the B&I Circus Store in Tacoma Wa the Friends of Ivan sought to honor his life and legacy.  The “Beloved Ivan” project was successful in funding, creating and installing a life-size bronze monument of Ivan at the entrance to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.

Tell Us Your Ivan Story

Do you remember Ivan? Perhaps from childhood at the B&I? Maybe you saw him in the Atlanta zoo? Tell us your Ivan story. Click on the link above to bring you to the story portal.

Ivan’s World

Help us think beyond Ivan. See how you can help by looking into the world where Ivan was born to better understand the plight of the great gorillas in their natural habitat.  Beloved Ivan will donate 10% of each sale of Limited Edition Ivan the Gorilla™ merchandise in his name to either the Dian Fossey Foundation or the Wildlife Conservation Society.

About the Artist

Douglas Granum derives inspiration from his world travel and appreciation of the unusual – disparate places and experiences.  His extraordinary talent was integral in bringing to life a Bronze tribute to Ivan.


We would visit Ivan at the B&I when I was a little boy. My wife was able to see Ivan at the Atlanta Zoo before he passed away.


When I was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in the 1970s I took my two boys (then ages 8-10 yrs ) to see Ivan at the B&I....

Air Force Ret. Colonel G Wohlfeil

This is testimonial three about Ivan and how I remember him.


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