It seems as if Cheetah the Chimp has died. Reports (Tarzan’s “Cheetah” dead) say that the chimp was thought to be around 80 years old, which is extremely old for a chimp even in captivity. He has lived out his golden years at The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm, Florida. Cheetah is said to have died from kidney failure on Dec.24 2011.
If your asking who Cheetah the chimp is…DUH, it’s the chimp who was the superstar of the old (1930′s) Tarzan films. It is also thought that this same chimp stared with the Late President Ronald Reagan in ‘Bed Time for Bonzo’.
What is confusing about all of this is I am not sure if this chimp was actually 80 y/o. In fact I’m not even sure if it was the original Cheetah or if it was even in the Tarzan movies. Oh, it is all so baffling anytime “Hollywood” is involved.
Before I go any farther, I want to say that no matter if the chimp named Cheetah that died this week was in the Tarzan movies or not doesn’t really matter. The chimp was obviously loved by many people and he seemed to have had a very happy life at the sanctuary. I hope he is swinging through the biggest trees in heaven.
Now, for those that are wondering why I would even question if this chimp was the “real” Cheetah is due to all of the speculation that has been around for years as to where the real Cheetah is. We all know that most animal actors are not just a single animal, they normally have several to play different parts at different times. So maybe all of the chimps claiming to be the Real Cheetah are. Maybe they all had a part at sometime in some movie?
For those of you interested in “Finding the Real Cheetah the Chimp” here are a few other sites with info about him/her/it.
Some believe that the real Cheeta was given to a relative of Tony Gentry (animal trainer). It says Gentry was ill and before he died, he agreed to leave his best friend with Dan Westfall who has the C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary in California.
The Washington Post has an article (Lie of the Jungle: The Truth About Cheeta the Chimpanzee) from Dec. 7,2008 that says that other animal trainers that knew Gentry said that his chimp was not Cheeta of the Tarzan movies and that Gentry had just made up the stories. This was all uncovered when a writer named R.D. Rosen set out to write a biography about the chimp Westfall and Gentry claimed to be the Real Cheetah. The article tells that while some say the Gentrys chimp never stared in a Tarzan movie, by the end of page 5, Rosen found that a woman certified that Gentrys chimp was Cheetah. To bad the woman passed away before Rosen could interview her. Poor Mr. Westfall is caught in the middle. He was told that it was Cheetah and has no way to prove either way.
Now according to Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, the chimp that died on Dec.24, 2011 is the original Cheetah and came to them in from Johnny Weissmullers’ (Tarzan) estate around 1960. RE: Tarzan co-star Cheetah dies at Palm Harbor sanctuary
Now as far as Wiki states Gentry did have a chimp named Jiggs who DID star in Tarzan movies. It also has other chimps listed as having been in the movies. They also have a chimp who is/was at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary as being in the movies (this would be the chimp that just died and was acquired from Weissmuller. They also list a few chimps as Unknown as fill ins for the Tarzan Movies. RE: Wikipedia Cheeta
Yes, I know that Wikipedia is written by a lot of everyday people and they may or may not know the facts, so take it as you will.
So as you can see, I am not sure who or where the “Real” Cheetah/Cheeta is.
I am sure that in this day and age, tracking down animal actors true stories will be much easier. Many animals can now be identified with micro-chips and there will be less confusion.
So, Rest in Peace Cheetah!