Visiting Cheeta the Chimp from Tarazan

Today we got the AWESOME chance to go meet Cheeta the Chimp, in person.  He was one of the 10 or so chimps that played the part of Cheeta in the Tarazan television show back in the 1940s.  Cool, huh??  He's in his 60s now, retired and living in Palm Springs with the nephew of his original trainer. 

The nephew set up a retirement sanctuary for old show monkeys so they don't end up in zoos, circuses or put down, which was the original plan the original trainer had for Cheeta upon his (the trainer's) death.  Dr. Jane Goodall asked Dan to make a sanctuary for these animals because they have no other place to go since all they know is how to act like a human and have never, ever really been a chimp.  Luckily, they don't use chimps like they used to and so there aren't that many of them that need retirement homes now.  Dan has  four retired show monkeys right now.

The chimp on the right of the photo with Johnny Wiessmuller, aka Tarazan, is the one we met.  He was just a baby chimp when he was used in the Tarazan show.

Here's Cheeta now well into his 60s.

Cheeta came into the room for a snack of a few Fritos and iced tea.

Look how fancy he drinks...he drinks with his fingers in the air.

Here is his performing one of his tricks for us.  Silly monkey.

and blowing his nose...complete with all the necessary sound effects

then Cheeta got down and went over to the piano to perform a little more

Cheeta still has all his teeth

While Dan was telling us all about Cheeta, Cheeta kept trying to groom Dan's nose, ears and hands.

Then Cheeta performed an original song on the piano...wish I remembered how to take video on this new camera so I could have shared it with everyone. 

a huge smile at the end of his performance

more grooming

Cheeta really likes to smell under Dan's armpit

and be tickled....it was so fun to hear him laughing

and Cheeta likes to tickle back

here he is waving good-bye....his wave is not your normal wave...it's more like shaking your hand way down low

and giving kisses

Then we went outside to visit Cheeta and Jeeter, another retired show chimp, while they were in their cages.

Jeeter, is quite the prankster and likes to run around and around in his cage sliding a banana box the whole way while revving his engines and then jumping up on the cage and spitting water on us.  And he has incredible aim!!

This is Jeeter after one of the many spitting he did on us.

Here is Jeeter just before he gave Dan a loud kiss

Here is Cheeta playing chase with the kids.


Cheeta also is a famous painter.  Her paintings have sold to people in 30 countries.  Here she is posing with one of her paintings.  Dr Jane Goodall took two of her paintings with her the last time she came for a visit and auctioned them off and they each sold for $10,000!!!

Here are some photos of some of the celebrities who have come to visit Cheeta.

                                   Betty White                                                                  Kaye Ballard

Betty White  Kaye Ballard

                                 Carol Channing                       Tippi Hedron, starred in The Birds and is Melanie Griffith's mom

Carol, Dan and Cheeta  Cheeta, Tippi and Dan Goofing

PBS came out this past April to do a show about Cheeta.  It hasn't aired yet.

Hugs  WalkingAway

Cheeta working on one of his masterpieces.  If you'd like a painting done by Cheeta, you can buy one for a donation on his site.

Creative Cheeta 

IMPORTANT:  Dan was very good to make sure to not promote the idea that chimps make good pets.  He believes that they should stay out in the wild and be free but, unfortunately for these chimps, they were born in a time when no one thought too much about letting animals be free and so have lost most of their natural chimp-ness and it would very hard to try to put them in with other chimps now.  He begged his uncle not to have Cheeta down in his will when he died and to let him take him and care for him for the rest of his natural life.  His uncle finally gave in and let him take Cheeta upon his death.

I have always been intrigued with gorillas and monkeys since I was a child.  In fact, my first year of college was spent working towards a degree in Zoology with the hopes of someday working with Koko, the gorilla.

Our page on Koko - I absolutely LOVE her!!

I eventually decided that the chance of doing that was very small and so I switched my major to Elementary Education.  I still would really, really love to work with gorillas, chimps and other monkeys some day.  I have a friend who is a Behavior Specialist at a FABULOUS chimp sanctuary in Louisiana, called Chimp Haven.  They take in chimps that have been used for medical testing, in the entertainment industry and/or former pets.  They have a nice huge place and provide a fabulous opportunity for these chimps to become chimps again, or maybe become chimps for the first time.