Tarzan’s chimpanzee Cheetah dies aged 80

Primate appeared in early films providing comic relief opposite Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan

Cheetah the chimpanzee, best known for his appearances in the early Tarzan films, has died aged 80.


The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Florida, today announced that Cheetah died of kidney failure on December 24.  

Although there is some debate as to whether he was the only chimpanzee used in the Tarzan films, it is thought that Cheetah appeared on screen in a number of pictures in the 1930s and 1940s including Tarzan and His Mate, Tarzan and The Amazons and Tarzan the Ape Man.

Debbie Cobb, the sanctuary’s outreach director, described Cheetah as “outgoing” and “very compassionate”.  

“He could tell if I was having a good day or a bad day. He was always trying to get me to laugh if he thought I was having a bad day. He was very in tune to human feelings.” She said.

It is understood Cheetah moved to the sanctuary in the 1960s from the estate of Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller.

Cheetah was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living non-human primate.