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Tarzan's 'Cheetah the Chimp' Dies at Extraordinary Age of 80


PALM HARBOR, Fla. (TheBlaze/AP) -- A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah the chimpanzee, sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the early 1930s, has died at age 80.

The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor announced that Cheetah died Dec. 24 of kidney failure.

Sanctuary outreach director Debbie Cobb on Wednesday told The Tampa Tribune that Cheetah was outgoing, loved finger painting and liked to see people laugh. She says he seemed to be tuned into human feelings. According to the Tribune, he was soothed by non-denominational Christian music.

Based on the works of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Tarzan stories, which have spawned scores of books and films over the years, chronicle the adventures of a man who was raised by apes in Africa. Cheetah filmed for the 1932 and 1934 "Tarzan the Ape Man" and "Tarzan and His Mate," according to the Tribune.

Cheetah was the comic relief in the Tarzan films that starred American Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weissmuller. Cobb says Cheetah came to the sanctuary from Weissmuller's estate sometime around 1960.

Cobb says Cheetah wasn't a troublemaker. Still, sanctuary volunteer Ron Priest says that when the chimp didn't like what was going on, he would throw feces.

Here is a CBS News report with footage of Cheetah in some of the original Tarzan movies as well as later in life:

According to the Tribune, the average chimp lives 25 to 25 years, while zoo chimps will live between 35 to 45 years, making Cheetah's lifespan extraordinary.


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