The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Foundation has announced the death of “Cheetah”, the chimpanzee that ‘starred’ with Johnny Weissmuller in the 1932 and 1934 Tarzan movies “Tarzan the Ape Man” and “Tarzan and His Mate.”
According to the Sanctuary, Cheetah died the day before Christmas, December 24, 2011. They stated that the chimp went into kidney failure on December 19. He was reported to be 80 years old.
“It is with great sadness that the community has lost a dear friend and family member,” the organization stated on its website. “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.”
Several chimps played the part of Cheetah over the years that Weissmuller played Tarzan. There is some controversy over the organization’s claim that this chimpanzee is the one from the 1930’s movies. Doubters point out that chimps don’t normally live to 80. Life expectancy for captive chimps is usually 40 to 60 years, though some have been known to live longer. This Cheetah is said to be one acquired by from Johnny Weissmuller’s estate in 1957, but according to the AP, the Sanctuary says that supporting paperwork was destroyed in a fire in 1995.
Fans of Cheetah and the Sanctuary have left condolences on the organizations Facebook page.