On April 9 Cheeta, the chimp from the Tarzan movies, celebrated his 75th birthday.

Cheeta is the world’s oldest ape. He even outlived the man who played Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, who died in 1984 – and the woman who played Jane. Chimps 1, humans 0.

Activists may wail and moan about animal exploitation. After all, he was taken from his family and the jungle – where he belonged – and plonked down in Hollywood to be choked by phonies and smog. Be that as it may, Cheeta sure seems to be enjoying himself now. He lives in a posh retirement setting, the CHEETA Primate Sancutary in Palm Springs, with access to a stereo, wide screen TV and piano.

He also loves to paint – his watercolours have apparently fetched up to $1500 (take THAT, every-friend-I-have-who-went-to-art-college).


According to his owner, quoted in this Sun piece:

“He enjoys watching his old films with his grandson Jeeter. We sit and watch TV together, but I have to keep an eye on him or he raids the fridge.”

Sounds like he’s enjoying himself. Also sounds pretty hilarious.

However, I am obliged – for both humane as well as scientific reasons – to quote this National Geographic piece:

“Activists say that retired entertainment chimpanzees engage in human behaviors such as watching television and reading magazines because they were deprived of a natural lifestyle and were instead trained to behave like humans, often through physical abuse. ‘You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that they are pretty dysfunctional,’ said Gloria Grow, co-founder of the Fauna Foundation which cares for neglected and abused animals in Quebec, Canada.”

However, the same N.G. piece goes on to report:

“Abe Karajerjian, a biological anthropologist who works … at the Cheeta Primate Foundation, says Cheeta and his companions are provided with an environment and social structure that is more suitable to their species rather than perpetuating their human-like lifestyles and behaviors. ‘We just love them and love to do things for them,’ he said. ‘They made tons of people happy, they had to endure a lot to make people happy, and we want to give back to them, provide them with friends.'”

Meh. I’m not going to lose any sleep over Cheeta – I’d rather lose sleep over the wild populations that may bite the dust.

Besides, he looks pretty happy to me.


Note: the photos of Cheeta on this post were taken from this site.

Advertisements