The One and Only Ivan: A Tale Of A Silverback Gorilla


Disney+ has just released a new movie called “The One and Only Ivan”. The movie is an adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s bestselling book, “The One and Only Ivan”. The book was originally released in 2013, but Ivan’s story began long before then. 

Stolen From Home 

Ivan, a Silverback Western Lowland Gorilla, was born in Central Zaire in 1962. During his youth, he was snatched from his home and sold to a circus store in Tacoma, Washington. While on his way to Tacoma, he was lost during transit. When Ivan finally arrived at his new home, he was extremely sick and malnourished. His new owners nursed him back to health, and he spent three and a half years residing in his owner’s home.

Life In A Mall

Ivan soon became too large and mischievous for the place and was moved to a 14’ x 14’ concrete cell in a shopping mall. He was put on display and used as an attraction for tourists to see. Business boomed for the small circus, as only numerous people in the state of Washington have ever seen a Silverback Gorilla before. During that time, only a few people thought it was out of the ordinary to have a 400-pound Gorilla sitting in a small shopping mall. Ivan then proceeded to spend 27 years at the mall, where he was never allowed to visit the outside world. 

Finding A Better Home 

During the mid-1970s, society became more aware of animals in captivity. Circuses felt pressure, and many relocated animals to zoos or sanctuaries. Ivan’s circus relocated every single animal, except for him because not many zoos wanted an old and solitary gorilla. Ivan was able to make a name for himself when the king of pop, Micheal Jackson, brought attention to the alien gorilla. Jackson claimed, “He was going to build the best gorilla compound in the world.” (Per: Unfortunately, this plan fell through, and Ivan stayed in his cement cell. Even though the pop icon was unable to build Ivan a compound, he raised awareness for Ivan. The community then appealed for Ivan’s freedom which worked. Petitioning and protesting for his freedom allowed Ivan to be sent to the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia where Ivan finally had the opportunity to touch grass, climb a tree, and feel the warm sun on his back. 

Ivans Legacy

Ivan spent 18 years at the zoo and passed away in August of 2012. The incredible gorilla lived to be between 48 to 50 years old. Ivan’s health began to decline in his later age, and he had to be anesthetized, “He simply never woke up from the anesthesia,” Dwight Lawson, Atlanta’s deputy director,  said. “He passed away quietly.” (Per: Ivan touched many people, and he was a unique soul. “He was a very special animal,” said Terry Maple, she helped organize Ivan’s transfer, “He lived a peaceful and happy life, and he lived a long life.” (Per: Ron Irwin, the son of Ivan’s owner, said, “Ivan had a life where he was adored, and he touched many lives in different parts of the country. Thousands of people are very thankful to have known Ivan.” (Per: The One and Only Ivan is an inspiring tale that shows what a community can do if they come together. In true Disney fashion, you will find yourself reaching for the box of tissues, crying, laughing, and rooting for the freedom of wild animals. 

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