In a statement posted on their website this week, the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Florida announced the death of Cheetah, a chimpanzee who appeared alongside Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies in the early 1930s. According to the sanctuary, Cheetah suffered kidney failure and died Saturday, December 24. The chimp was believed to be around 80-years-old.
“It is with great sadness that the community has lost a dear friend and family member on December 24, 2011. Cheetah, star of the Tarzan films, passed away after kidney failure during the week of December 19, 2011,” the statement said. “The Sanctuary’s residents and volunteers would like to thank all of the community members for their continued support as the Sanctuary continues to expand on the legacy and foundation Cheetah continues to oversee as he watches over his supporters, friends, and family.”
Cheetah was one of several chimps to play “Cheeta” in 1932’s “Tarzan the Ape Man” and 1934’s “Tarzan and his Mate.” He retired to the primate sanctuary in 1960 after living at Weissmuller’s Florida estate. Weissmuller died in 1984 at the age of 79.