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Cheetah the Chimpanzee of 1930s Tarzan films dies at 80

By JohnThomas Didymus     Dec 28, 2011 in Entertainment
Cheetah the Chimpanzee, one of Hollywood's most famous animals who appeared in 1930s Tarzan films, has died of kidney failure, aged 80. The primate sanctuary in Florida said he died on December 24 after having outlived his co-stars.
According to AFP, the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor announced the death of Cheetah on its website, saying: "It is with great sadness that the community has lost a dear friend and family member on December 24, 2011."
According to the officials at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, Cheetah in his old age loved finger-painting, watching football, and watching people laugh. Cheetah made a living with his "Ap-stract" paintings which sold for 75 pounds.
Cheetah would sometimes throw poop at people he did not like. Sanctuary volunteer Ron Priest, according to Daily Mail, said: "When he didn't like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them. He could get you at 30ft with bars in between."
Cheetah, according to his caregivers, also liked non-denominational Christian music. According to Sanctuary outreach director Debbie Cobb: "He was very compassionate. He could tell if I was having a good day or a bad day. He was always trying to get me to laugh if he thought I was having a bad day. He was very in tune to human feelings."
Cheetah was the comic relief in the Tarzan movies which starred American Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weissmuller. Cheetah was reportedly transferred to the primate sanctuary from Weismulleer's estate in 1960.
Cheetah distinguished himself with the ability to stand straight like a person. He is said to have been discovered by an animal trainer in Africa in April 1932, as a newborn. According to Daily Mail, he first appeared with Weismuller in "Tarzan And His Mate" and reportedly in about a dozen other Tarzan films. He is believed to have appeared in a total of 50 movies before his final as Chee-Chee in 1967's Doctor Dolittle. Weissmuller died in 1984 at the age of 79 while Maureen O'Sullivan, who played Tarzan's mate Jane, died aged 87 in 1998.
Cheetah was a smoker and drinker before he came to the sanctuary in 1960. The sanctuary officials prevented him after he relocated there.
AFP reports that another chimpanzee named Cheeta that lives in California was also claimed by its owners to have appeared in the Tarzan films. But the claim was withdrawn after a writer researched it in 2008 and concluded that the primate was too young to have appeared in the 1930s film .
BBC reports that contrary to claims that Cheetah appeared exclusively in the Tarzan films, several chimpanzees might have been used in the filming.
Chimpanzees generally live to about 50 in captivity, ten years longer than those in the wild. Another Chimpanzee, a major attraction at Sydney Taronga Zoo, died at the age of 60 last July.
Cheetah was honored with a star at 110 South Palm Canyon Drive, on the Palm Spring's Walk of Stars in 1995. The campaign to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unsuccessful.
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