Cheetah, said to be Tarzan's sidekick chimp in 1930's, has died at the astonishing age of 80

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Talk about double-take.  I came across an article today saying that Cheetah, the chimp who was the movie Tarzan’s sidekick, had died, and I immediately thought it must be referring to the second or third or fourth “Cheetah”.  It never occurred to me that the same chimp who appeared on screen in the original Johnny Weismuller Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932 could somehow still be alive in 2011.

Chimps don’t live that long, do they?

Wel, this one did.

Chimps in the wild typically live 25-35 years; in zoos they rarely live past 45.  Cheetah made it all the way to 80, a phenomenal achievement.

Cheetah first appeared onscreen with Weissmuller and O’Sullivan in 1932, and he died on Christmas Eve in 2011 from kidney failure.  He appeared in a total of 12 Tarzan movies.  He died at the  Suncoast Primate Sanctuary.

“The Sanctuary’s residents and volunteers would like to thank all of the community members for their continued support as the Sanctuary continues to expand on the legacy and foundation Cheetah continues to oversee as he watches over his supporters, friends, and family,” the Sanctuary’s website announcement stated.

Cheetah was aquired by a predecessor to the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, the “Chimp Farm,” in 1960 from the estate of actor Johnny Weissmuller, according to the sanctuary’s outreach coordinator Debbie Cobb. The facility served as a retirement home for the chimp, as well as other Hollywood animal extras,

Cheetah was “one of our most outgoing” chimps, Cobb said, and he delighted visitors.

Flowers to mark his passing are already arriving at the sanctuary, which is planning to hold a “Day of Remembrance” for Cheetah in the days ahead.

Cheetah had been certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living non-human primate.

UPDATE: Agence France-Presse is reporting that there is an instance in which the owners of a chimpanzee named Cheeta believed that their ape had appeared in the classic “Tarzan” films, but later learned that their Cheeta was younger than they thought. “It is also difficult to determine which movies, if any, our Cheeta may have been in,” these owners wrote on their Web site.

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