This is Ivan

Learning from his Legacy

Ivan Magonolia flower at the Atlanta Zoo courtesy of the Tacoma News Tribune photograph by Dean Koephler

Ivan Lee Johnston was a Silverback Western Lowland gorilla from the Democratic Republic of Congo on the African continent.  Raised by the Johnston family from a young infant for the first years of his life in Tacoma, WA.  The B&I Circus Store would become his new home for nearly twenty-seven years because he had grown too large for the Johnston household.

For thirty years Ivan had become a friend to many, his personality & sense of humor will always be fondly remembered by those within the Tacoma community.  Most noteworthy while at the B&I, Ivan had garnered many friendships but he had lived a solitary life for a species that thrives on being part of a community.  By the mid-1990s, his caretakers had to make the difficult decision to move Ivan. Zoo Atlanta, the foremost center in the US with the experience to care for Ivan would become his new home.  Ivan had lived the remainder of his iconic life at Zoo Atlanta.  He passed at the age of fifty on August 20th of 2012.

An Icon remembered

Ivan’s legend offers many teachings about how our kind should respect the fellow species that call our world home.  Protecting their natural habitats from our human actions will be the key to their survival.

These unconventional experiences for a gorilla had shaped the extraordinary life of Ivan. A monument that stands at Point Defiance will forever honor this life that has become an icon in art & literature.


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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.

Ivan’s Monument

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

Show your support & help us think beyond Ivan. Look into the world of Ivan’s origin to understand the plight of the great gorillas in their natural habitat.  From each sale of Limited Edition Ivan the Gorilla® merchandise a 10% donation will be gifted 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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