Ivan the Ape

Tacoma Public Library Image Archives

Today Ivan the Ape died under anesthesia at the age of 50. I’d just mentioned him in my last post about the death of J.P. Patches. Two of the greatest celebrities of my childhood have now gone on to greener pastures.

Ivan came to Tacoma in 1964 and was basically raised as a human. He was kept in a stark concrete and glass room at the B&I store where us kids loved to watch him march around and play on his tire swing. Even then I felt a sense of desolation as I watched Ivan try to make sense out of life in such a drab and unstimulating cage. Even though he had many people who loved and cared for him, keeping him in such a mental institution-like indoor environment for almost three decades was inhumane.

In the 1990s Ivan went to Atlanta and was finally able to enjoy the outdoors as well as the company of his own species. I wish I could have seen him living a bit more freely like that. He captivated me and terrified me at the same time, four hundred-some pounds of burly grey muscle that would have easily conquered the WWE championship title if given the chance.

The News Tribune has a great article on Ivan’s life: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/08/21/2263040/zoo-atlanta-mourns-death-of-50.html?storylink=mrc. It recounts how he and a female gorilla were captured in the Congo as babies. That is despicable and we should stop capturing wild animals for entertainment. It deprives them of freedom and the chance to develop normally. God never meant for them to be our court jesters.

Ivan’s infancy has much in common with another local celebrity, Lolita/Tokitae the orca who languishes in an illegally-sized goldfish bowl of a pool at the Miami Seaquarium: http://www.orcanetwork.org/captivity/captivity.html. She was captured near Whidbey Island in 1970 and has been forced to perform ever since. I’ve previously compared her situation to a human being locked in a bathroom their whole life who has to dance for their dinner. We can get her into a more natural environment like Ivan– see the previous link for details on how you can help.

Ivan, like Tokitae, you were a survivor. I will always remember watching you watching us and the formidable yet curiously familiar look in your eyes. In so many ways you were like us despite your rippling simian muscle and so much a part of our childhoods.

You must have wondered why we got to mill around the shopping center eyeballing camping equipment and watching puppet shows and you didn’t. I saw you the day we adopted my feisty black kitten who slashed his way out of a paper bag in the car on the way home. The irony is that he and I were meant to live in a supervised environment, not you.

It is strange that you passed on within weeks of J.P. Patches because you were both titans in the eyes of us Puget Sound kids. We grew up with you– you were like a massive furry cousin we were excited to go see who never let us down. We knew you as Ivan the Ape; our Father knows you as one of His unique, magnificent, and marvelous creations.

The soul of a king lurked in your eyes.

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©2012 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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