Zoo will save space for gorilla memorial

Staff writerDecember 4, 2012 

A grass-roots effort to erect a Tacoma monument to Ivan the Gorilla has gotten a big boost with the promise from Metro Parks that — as long as somebody else pays for it — there’s a place for an Ivan sculpture at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

At its regular meeting Nov. 26, the parks board unanimously agreed to reserve a space for Ivan on the zoo’s entry plaza, just south of steps descending from the parking lots.

Making the pitch to the commissioners was Earl Borgert of Lakewood, whose grandfather started the B&I Shopping Center on South Tacoma Way, where Ivan was caged for 27 years.

“My family and I were under the impression that the community had kind of forgotten about Ivan,” Borgert told the park commissioners. “Upon his passing in August, we were shocked to see the outpouring from the community.”

Ivan died Aug. 20 at Zoo Atlanta, where he’d lived since 1994. He was sent to Atlanta after a national campaign by animal rights activists who argued he would be better off in more natural surroundings with members of his own species.

Ivan’s death brought an outpouring of emotion from Tacoma-area residents, many of whom said they’d been deeply affected by visits to his cage, where he would look intently into their eyes.

Borgert and his sister went to Atlanta to collect the gorilla’s ashes and brought them back to Tacoma.

“I’m hoping we can create a successful campaign to create a statue of him at the Point Defiance Zoo that’s so unique and special that no one will ever forget,” Borgert said.

He said his family and supporters will start fundraising campaigns to pay for the memorial.

What they’re hoping for, he said, is a life-sized replica made of bronze.

That might prove too pricey, however, he said.

“It’s still being looked at as to what kind of medium would be affordable in the campaign,” Borgert said. “The intent is that kids could have interaction with the statue.”

The resolution passed by the parks board gives Ivan supporters five years to place the sculpture.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693 rob.carson@ thenewstribune.com

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