“Cheetah” reportedly died of kidney failure at a Florida animal sanctuary at age 80. But now doubts have surfaced about whether the animal that died was in fact in the Tarzan movies.
Time reports: “Debbie Cobb, outreach director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, said Wednesday that her grandparents acquired Cheetah around 1960 from ‘Tarzan’ star Johnny Weissmuller and that the chimp appeared in Tarzan films between 1932 and 1934. During that period, Weissmuller made ‘Tarzan the Ape Man’ and ‘Tarzan and His Mate.’ But Cobb offered no documentation, saying it was destroyed in a 1995 fire.”
Other accounts say a chimp named either Jiggs or Mr. Jiggs played Cheetah during that period before its death in 1938. What’s more, some experts say “an 80-year-old chimpanzee would be extraordinarily old, perhaps the oldest ever known,” the story reports.
The Time report adds: “According to many experts and Save the Chimps, another Florida sanctuary, chimpanzees in captivity generally live to between 40 and 60, though Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Fla., says it has one that is around 73.”
This isn’t the first time controversy has surrounded the death of a chimp said to be Cheetah. An earlier claim about a chimpanzee actor that was featured alongside Weissmuller was debunked in 2008 by The Washington Post, Time reports.