Tarzan chimp Cheetah dies aged 80 – or did he?


Currently making its way around the news media is the rather surprising story that Cheetah, the famous chimpanzee from the 1930s Tarzan and Jane movies,  apparently passed away at 80 years of age this Christmas Eve following kidney failure, according to Debbie Cobb at the Suncoast wildlife sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Florida – or did he?

According to the Suncoast wildlife sanctuary in Florida, the movie star chimp outlived both his co-stars: ‘Tarzan’, Johnny Weissmuller, who died aged 79 in 1984, and ‘Jane’, Maureen O’Sullivan, who played mate Jane and who died aged 87 in 1998.

However, the Washington Post has previously debunked the present Cheetah as being an imposter who was born in 1960 – the primate himself was presumably kept out of the loop.
The Washington Post surmises that rather than an 80 year-old chimp we have an ordinary chimp who presumably helped attract tourists to the wildlife sanctuary – eventually the owners came clean, admitting their chimp was a fraud.

There appears to have in fact been no single primate who starred in the Tarzan movies – a number of chimps were used, presumably all of whom are now dead.   All of which means that Cheetah (with an “h”), who passed away from kidney failure on December 24th, was almost certainly an imposter too.

The Associated Press has just asked Ms Cobb for documents detailing the sale of Cheetah but Ms Cobb claims that the documents were destroyed in a house fire in the mid-1990s.  RD Rosen, who wrote the original Washington Post piece, doesn’t give credence to Ms Cobb’s Cheetah claim and it is recommended that the ‘Cheetah died of kidney failure on Christmas eve’ story be taken with a pinch of salt – perhaps a “Cheeta” did indeed die but evidently not the original Cheetah(s).