Ivan the Gorilla statue unveiled at Point Defiance Zoo

Jenna Hanchard reports.

A new statue for one of the most famous gorillas in the world now lives at Point Defiance Zoo.

"He was basically raised like my little brother," said Larry Johnston, whose family owned a pet store in Tacoma.

Johnston’s family purchased Ivan, a gorilla, who lived with them at their home.

"The connection you have when you raise something and you teach them how to use silverware, and you give him baths, and you brush his teeth,” Johnston said. “We had a spiritual connection. I was his alpha.”

As Ivan got bigger, the family had to sell him, and he became a permanent fixture at the B&I Marketplace, a shopping center in Tacoma.

"One of my favorite things of course for anything to do was go see Ivan and when you would sit there and visit with him all of the kids were there," said Earl Borgert, whose grandparents owned B&I at the time.

Ivan stayed there for 27 years. But there was controversy over Ivan being enclosed and on display at a local mall. He had to be moved, and there was national interest.

"At one point, Michael Jackson had actually approached my grandmother about taking Ivan to Never Never Land Ranch," said Borgert.

Michael Jackson pulled out of that deal, and Ivan went to live at the Atlanta Zoo for the rest of his life.

Recently, the community got together to raise money to create this bronze sculpture. Douglas Granum is the sculptor.

"In each crucible of bronze that we poured and there are about 35 in all,” Granum said. “We put a portion of Ivan's ashes in there, so the whole sculpture has his DNA."

That makes seeing this sculpture and touching it even that more special.

'I don't know if you ever lost a dog or a cat you really loved he was much more than that. There was just a very deep connection," said Johnston.

Copyright 2016 KING


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