Be Ivan

Be Inspirational, Be a Visionary, Be an Advocate, Be a Nurturer


Ivan inspired people to bring about a change in his life.

Through their Vision, he became an Advocate for all endangered species and his legacy continues to Nurture new ideas of what could be. 


An idea can start a movement, but its virtue will


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“The population of mountain gorillas has continued to increase in recent years, leading to its downlisting from Critically Endangered to Endangered in November 2018.” ― WWF

More is required to increase the population size. It starts with learning their plight and connecting on a more personal level. The deeper our bond with these amazing beings, the more empathetic we are, the more we are drawn to help.

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Ivan and a magnolia blossom
Magnolia blossom

Through Ivan's Story,

grants, scholarships, and a variety of programs, we are dedicated to the conservation of endangered species in their natural habitat.

A lesson learned from Ivan’s Legacy is that we should aspire to be more like his kin rather than trying to shape them to be more like us.

Ivan the Gorilla Loving memory

Ivan touched the lives of many in the Tacoma, WA area. We continue to learn how and in what ways years after his passing.

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Part of Ivan’s legacy is:

The Ivan statue at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium was only the beginning.
The I.V.A.N. Foundation is the next step.

It is our mission to share his story to:

Inspire people who have a Vision to Advocate for all endangered species and to Nurture the ideas to bring about lasting change for the conservation of their natural habitats. 

Ivan statue at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma

Statue of Ivan at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Paper magnolia

What makes these creatures who they are is their behaviors and personalities. Environmental changes lead to an altering of who we are at our core and how we act. We adapt and evolve into our new surroundings.

We need to do more than preserve the Western Lowland Gorilla and other endangered species.



West Pierce Fire & Rescue Station 21

Ivan and West Pierce Fire & Rescue Station 21

May 16, 2024

Some time ago, a good friend Theadora Harding, informed me that West Pierce Fire & Rescue Station 21 had decided to adopt Ivan the Gorilla as their mascot.  I reached out to Fire Chief Jim Sharp to inquire if my uncle Ron Irwin and I could visit the Fire Station for a photo with the crew. Upon…

Be Ivan - Red Boiling Springs Elementary School, TN 2023

Be Ivan – Red Boiling Springs Elementary School

December 9, 2023

Heading to Tennessee For the past few years, Larry and I have hosted a presentation about Ivan’s life for Ms. Januarie Alred’s class at Red Boiling Springs Elementary School (Go Bulldogs) in TN via Zoom.  This year, thanks Ms Alred’s and the generosity of the Macon County Arts Council, who sponsored the cost of our…

My memory of Ivan

February 17, 2023

My memory of Ivan is when I was 8 years old. I loved Ivan so much. I watched the movie, I read the book, and I’m following his journey. And I just love Ivan as much as right now! by Sonia Davila

Free by Charlie Puth

April 21, 2021

Via Instagram: Hi. I heard by chance, Free by Charlie Puth, and loved the song since the beginning! I then read from The One and Only Ivan…I looked for the video and I fell head over heels with Ivan! I am listening to the audiobook and searching, I found you (Earl) and Larry Johnston telling…

As An Adult, I Have Followed His Journey

April 8, 2021

I grew up in Tacoma and as a little girl I remember going and seeing him at the B&I every weekend. As an adult, I have followed his journey and I am so happy he got to live out the rest of his days at the Atlanta Zoo.  I miss him and will forever have…

I watched the Disney+ show tonight about Ivan

April 5, 2021

I watched the Disney+ show tonight about Ivan. Such a great movie. Much to my surprise, at the end it was mentioned that he lived in a strip mall in Tacoma Washington for 27 years. I didn’t remember that his name was Ivan or that I actually saw him there numerous times when I was…

The central area of Ivan's compound

Ivan’s Compound – The Space He Left Behind

April 2, 2021

After the B&I Circus Store changed hands in 1995, I swore I would never return.    This store that had once brought so much joy was now haunted. It was filled with many ghosts of years long gone.    Time does soften those feelings, and after twenty-five years I had decided it was time to…

Our story: Ivan the Gorilla and family

Heirs To A Story Like No Other

September 30, 2020

My Grandparents, Earl & Constance Irwin, started the B&I Circus store back in the early 40’s and from my earliest memories, Ivan was always a part of my life and family. My sisters and I often state how incredible our childhood was, largely due to the influence of our close family state. As a child,…

Ivan the Gorilla on the shoulders of Larry Johnston riding a Solex Bicycle

The Bicycle

September 10, 2020

Larry Johnston & Ivan the Gorilla® circa 1964 at the B&I Circus Store.     The Solex Electric Bicycle company wanted to introduce their new motorized bicycle & feature a photo shoot with Ivan for commercial purposes. Ivan & I would take many adventures together, but he had especially loved to ride on motorcycles with…

Sammy the elephant on the merry go round as featured in Disney's The One and Only Ivan

My Perspective: Disney’s The One and Only Ivan

August 26, 2020

I watched the newly released Disney movie, The One and Only Ivan, over the weekend. For many, this may be a fascinating movie, but for me, it was epic.     The film had captivated me from the beginning. It opened with the introduction of Henrietta, a chicken that played baseball. We actually did have…