Remembering Ivan the Gorilla

Remembering Ivan the Gorilla

The Newbery Medal book for this year, announced in January, was The One and Only Ivan…a story based on a real gorilla who used to live at Zoo Atlanta. Today at 3:30pm zookeepers at Zoo Atlanta will be presenting a webcast to remember Ivan, who died August 20, 2012. Ivan was a beloved zoo resident missed by many.

From Zoo Atlanta : “We’ll discuss the real Ivan, who called Zoo Atlanta home for 18 years. From the jungles of Africa to the shores of the Pacific Northwest to The Ford African Rain Forest at Zoo Atlanta, his life has become a symbol of the way animals shape our lives — and the power we have to shape theirs. We’ll be joined by our educator instructor Carvel Bennett and primate keeper Jodi Carrigan, who was Ivan’s close friend for 10 years.”

The One and Only Ivan

Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Bigtop Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan lives in a small glass domain with nothing but a food bowl, a stuffed toy and a television…and the humans that come and press their faces to the glass and point and stare. The zoo owner sometimes gives Ivan a crayon or paint. Ivan likes to draw pictures.

Hello.
I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan. Mighty Silverback.
The names are mine, but they’re not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. (pages 1-2)

Doesn’t that remind you of Harry Potter when he says to Hagrid in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, “But I’m just…just Harry!”

Ivan does have a couple friends, an old elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob that sneaks into Ivan’s cage every night to sleep on his warm belly. The three of them get by. They don’t talk much about what could be better, they just deal with every day. When the Exit 8 Big Top owner realizes attendance is way down he buys a baby elephant, a terrified baby elephant named Ruby, to make more people want to visit.

We’ve got a new arrival. This is Ruby, folks. Six hundred pounds of fun to save our sorry butts. This gal is gonna sell us some tickets.” (page 69)

Ruby’s arrival makes Stella and Ivan see their situation in a different way. Stella, in particular, can’t stand the idea of Ruby growing up at the mall. While Ivan and Stella have grown old and gotten to the point where life at the mall is good enough, they don’t think life at the mall is good enough for Ruby. So, in the spirit of Charlotte’s Web, Ivan hatches a plan hoping to save Ella from a lonely life at the mall, a plan that just might save the others too. You’ll cry and cheer both. It’s cool to see Ivan get his Mighty back. He isn’t just Ivan. He’s Ivan the Mighty Silverback. Author: Katherine Applegate

Ivan’s story is based on a real gorilla that lived for 27 years in a mall zoo but now lives at Zoo Atlanta in a habitat made especially for gorillas. Ivan will turn 50 this year! You can read about him and the effort it took to move him to his current home.


Annnnd did you know our own Indianapolis Zoo plans a New Gorilla Exhibit to open in 2013?

 

If you like Ivan here are some more stories that imagine what life would be like from the animal’s point of view. We can never really know of course, but it IS interesting to imagine. You also might like to read about the gorilla Koko. Koko learned sign language, which makes you wonder if we CAN learn a little about what animals think. The last four books are about scientists who study gorillas in the wild or in captivity. Really, really fascinating. And I’m warnin’ ya…the animal stories will make you cry, just like Ivan. If you have a pet you’ll go hug it and think more about your responsibility and what it means to have an animal friend.
Charlotte's Web A Dog's Life Black Beauty Whittington
Koko Love Koko's Kittens Gorilla Doctors Dian Fossey
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