An animal sanctuary in Florida said Cheetah, the chimp from the Tarzan movies in the 1930's died on Christmas Eve at the age of 80. Some people, however, are dubious of this, for a variety of reasons. One such reason is that chimp life expectancy is around 60 years old in captivity - an 80 year old chimp would be extraordinary. In addition, there is a startling lack of documentation from the sanctuary that this chimp is the one that starred alongside Johnny Weissmuller.
Debbie Cobb, who runs the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary where Cheetah allegedly died this past weekend, claims her grandparents got the chimp directly from Johnny Weissmuller in 1960. However, according to ABC News, any documentation she had was destroyed.
Unfortunately, there was a fire in '95 in which a lot of that documentation burned up, Cobb told ABC News. I'm 51 and I've known him for 51 years. My first remembrance of him coming here was when I was actually 5, and I've known him since then, and he was a full-grown chimp then.
If this Cheetah does turn out to be a fake, it wouldn't be the first time. In 2008, Washington Post writer R.D. Rosen debunked a claim that the Cheetah was living in Palm Spring, Calif. He became suspicious after he discovered an early detail about how the real cheetah came to America was false. From there, he compared pictures of that chimp to the ones from the Tarzan movies, and found no resemblance. He believes that the chimp that died on Wednesday is another imposter as well.
Rosen told ABC that he doesn't believe the real Cheetah is still alive. I'm afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O'Sullivan is long gone, he said.