Tarzan’s sidekick chimp “Cheetah” dead at 80

Outreach director Debbie Cobb reported to Historic City News that Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor lost one of its most famous family members over the holiday weekend — 80 year-old Cheetah; the chimp who starred in the 1930’s Tarzan films.

During the week of December 19th, Cheetah, the male chimpanzee, suffered kidney failure. He succumbed to his condition on December 24, 2011, according to the foundation’s website.

“Cheetah continues to oversee the legacy of our foundation as he watches over his supporters, friends, and family,” Cobb told reporters. “The Sanctuary’s residents and volunteers would like to thank all of the community members for their continued support.”

American Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who portrayed Tarzan in the films, actually owned Cheetah in real life. Cobb says Cheetah came to the sanctuary from Weissmuller’s estate; sometime around 1960.

In a statement from the foundation, reporters were told that Cheetah was outgoing, loved finger painting and liked to see people laugh. Cheetah provided comic relief in the dramatic Tarzan films and seemed to be acutely tuned in to human feelings.

For the past 50 years, Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Foundation has provided a safe haven for animals in need of sanctuary. It is home to over 70 animals including Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Monkeys, Reptiles, Tropical Birds, and more.

After they can no longer be cared for as a personal pet or after retiring from the laboratory or film industries, the Sanctuary provides these magnificent animals with a safe haven to spend out the rest of their lives in peace and with dignity.

Robert and Mae Noell purchased the original sanctuary property in 1954. The husband and wife team toured the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in the fifties and early sixties performing various animal acts.

The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is run entirely by volunteers and relies on the generosity of the community and local business sponsors.

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