Christmas Eve of 2011 marks the loss of yet another TV icon. Cheetah, the chimpanzee who co-starred opposite Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan movies in the 1930s and ’40s, died of kidney failure at the age of 80. He outlived both Johnny Weissmuller, who died at the age of 79 in 1984, and Maureen O’Sullivan, who died at 87 in 1998. It was reported by Fox 13 News at Tampa Bay that Cheetah was probably somewhere around the age of 4 or 5 when he began his stardom years.
Cheetah’s age greatly exceeded the life expectancy of the average life span of a chimpanzee in capitivity which is normally around 35 to 45 years. This accomplishment put Cheetah in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest non-human primate. In addition, he was honored with a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in March 1995. In 2008 he was the subject of a tongue-in-cheek autobiography called Me Cheeta. His final role was as Chee-Chee in 1967's Doctor Dolittle.
The common chimpanzee and the Bonobo are the closest living relatives to humans. They are known to be able to make tools and use them to acquire foods along with their sophisticated hunting strategies. They are known to communicate with non-verbal communication such as using hand gestures and facial expressions. According to reports by the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary and Tampa Tribune, the Facility director Debbie Cobb told the paper that her beloved chimp enjoyed finger painting, but also was known for throwing his feces if he became too upset. Chettah also loved watching American football and was "soothed by Christian music".Cheetah’s number one most favorite thing was said to be food with the second runner up being diet coke. When first arriving at the Santuary, Cheetah was partial to alchohol and cigarettes but was required to 'give them up' as they are prohibited at the sanctuary.
Cheetah was living at The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbour, Florida when he passed away. He arrived there in 1960.
(Resources include articles from The Telegraph, Channel 4 news Freelance writer Asha Tanna, Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, Tampa Tribune)
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