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Zoo Atlanta Announces Death of Ivan, Western Lowland Gorilla

'Ivan is a symbol of the evolution of zoos and the movement to provide naturalistic, socially appropriate habitats for animals in zoological settings.'

by Patch Staff

Ivan, a 50-year-old male western lowland gorilla, has died, said Tuesday.

The death followed a recent decline in the geriatric ape’s health and behavior, the Grant Park-based zoo said.

The Animal Management and Veterinary Teams chose to perform a diagnostic assessment under general anesthesia on August 20, but Ivan never regained consciousness following the procedure.

“The Veterinary Team had been observing Ivan carefully in recent weeks following weight loss, apparent lack of appetite, and a respiratory illness. When it became obvious that our efforts to modify his diet and his existing medication regimen were not resulting in significant improvement, it was necessary to perform a diagnostic procedure to determine the underlying causes of Ivan’s condition,” Hayley Murphy, Zoo Atlanta's vetinary services director, said in a statement.

“General anesthesia carries a degree of risk in any veterinary procedure, but these risks are compounded in an individual of Ivan’s advanced age and delicate condition. We are heartbroken that this proved the case, and Ivan did not recover from the anesthesia.”

Ivan, who came to Zoo Atlanta in 1994, was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1962.

Sold by wildlife traders to the owners of a Tacoma, Wash. department store in 1964, Ivan was moved to an indoor enclosure inside the store in 1967 and stayed there for the next 27 years and the "Shopping Mall Gorilla."

But animal rights activists and zoological organizations objected to Ivan's solitary lifestyle and his owners donated the then-32-year-old gorilla to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in 1994. Woodland Park Zoo transferred Ivan to Zoo Atlanta on permanent loan that same year.

In the spring of 1995, he entered the Ford African Rain Forest — his first trip outside in nearly 30 years.

“This is a tremendous loss to the Zoo Atlanta family, and it is a loss that spans two coasts. It’s because of the great love Ivan inspired in his years on the West Coast that the wheels were ultimately put in motion to have him join us here at Zoo Atlanta,” Raymond King, the zoo's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

“Like Willie B. before him, Ivan is a symbol of the evolution of zoos and the movement to provide naturalistic, socially appropriate habitats for animals in zoological settings. His life illustrates, better than we ever could, the power of the community to promote change for wildlife, sometimes based only on a deep and abiding connection with just one animal.”

With Ivan's death, Zoo Atlanta has three gorillas who are 50 years old or older: females Shamba, 53; and Choomba, 50; and Ozzie, 51, the oldest male gorilla living in human care in the world. Gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of about 35.

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